Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Picture by Piero di Cosimo

Read "Picture by Piero di Cosimo" at The Eldritch Dark:

I assume that this haiku from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) refers to "The Discovery of Honey by Bacchus" (shown above), a painting by Piero di Cosimo now held in the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts.  Their website has some interesting background on the painting:

CAS' interpretation of the events depicted in the picture differs from that of the museum curators: in CAS' poem the "Satyrs loot the bee-tree", while the museum commentary notes that "satyrs and maenads...make noise to attract a swarm of bees to settle in a hollow tree."  Those actions supposedly give rise to the mythical discovery of honey.


  1. Hey Jeff! Long time no see! I just saw that you were semi-active again on the eldritchdark and had to see some more poetry reviews!

    I'm impressed by the sheer volume of brand new CAS haikus that can't be found over at ED, but focusing on this particular haiku, I'm surprised at the two completely different interpretations of the painting. Could one be wrong, or both be right?

    Granted, if the museum insists that the scene depicts a particular mythological scene, then it's possible CAS doesn't know every Greek thing there is to know, and just assumed the satyrs were looting honey from bees because honey is sweet, honey is wild, and stinging bees add that thrill of adventure. All suitable qualities for wild goat-men!

  2. I agree with your suggestion that CAS used di Cosimo's painting merely as a starting point for his imagination, and depicted his own strain of "suitable qualities for wild goat-men!"

    Bacchus, along with the maenads and the satyrs who often accompany him, seem like perfect manifestations of CAS' own interests in creative and personal freedom, and their inclination to "loot the bee-tree" is poignant as an expression of those freedoms.