Venus

‘Venus. Planets Series’. Mixed media on 10×10″ wood. Rose Strang 2019

Today’s version of Venus – an update from the previous version which I wasn’t quite happy with. I think this is better – more Venusian I hope.

in the sea’s caverns,
In grass growing, and grain bursting,
Flower unfolding, and flesh longing,
And shower falling sharp in April.

(excerpt from the Venusian verses from C.S Lewis’s The Planets)

This completes the series of small Planets Series studies on wood, and the exhibition launches this weekend! All info here – Planets Series

This is a continuation of the Planets Series I’m creating this year, which takes inspiration from the planets as understood in Medieval cosmology, and the seven books of Narnia which were each inspired by the seven planets, as discovered by Michael Ward, author of ‘Planet Narnia’.

Venus corresponds to The Magician’s Nephew in the Narnia Chronicles. It was the last book in the series (also written last) and Lewis intended it as a prequel – a sort of ‘making of Narnia’.

Venus in the Medieval imagination and mythology was associated with new life, fecundity, all flowers and growing things, love, pleasure, desire, sensuality and the arts. It rules both Taurus and Libra. It’s very suited to this time of year since its associated colour is green, and June is the most beautifully verdant month (you might call on a venusian influence if you’re a keen gardener!)

Venus is also related to the myth of the garden of the Hesperides (from Wikipedia: ‘The name means originating from Hesperos (evening). Hesperos, or Vesper in Latin, is the origin of the name Hesperus the evening star (i.e. the planet Venus as well as having a shared root with the English word “west”.’ )

I’ve taken that association as inspiration for the painting above, including apples in the garden of the Hesperides, which feature in the top right of my painting. And also not least because one of the main themes of The Magician’s Nephew is Digory’s quest to bring back an apple from the tree of eternal life to his mother, who’s dying.

‘Venus, detail’ Rose Strang 2019

The apple doesn’t offer eternal life in our world, but it does make his mother well again. Digory then plants the apple core in the garden, which grows into a healthy, but apparently un-magical apple tree. In later years it’s blown down in a storm, Digory (or Professor Kirk) who’s now moved to a large house in the country, decides to have it made into a wardrobe –  the same wardrobe discovered of course by Lucy in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe – which leads her in to Narnia.

When I read the Magician’s Nephew as a kid, I was deeply affected by the story of Digory and his mother – it’s understated and all the more moving because of that. It’s no surprise to learn that C.S. Lewis’s own mother died when he was around nine years old.

It’s one aspect of Venusian love in the story, another completely different kind is the crush Digory’s Uncle Andrew has on Jadis – the former Empress of a corrupt and dying alien world called Charn. Although she’s described as having a ‘terrible’ sort of beauty, she’s also ruthless, violent and about seven foot tall, so the descriptions of the grovelling, inebriated Uncle Andrew preening himself in the mirror while fantasising about winning Jadis’s favour is a humorously incongruent image!

The story also describes the birth of Narnia, which is sung into life by Aslan, after which he instructs all the new creatures, trees and living things to ..awake. Love. Think. Speak…

As this is the last painting in this series, I’ll end with the full poem; The Planets, by C.S. Lewis …

“The Planets”

Lady LUNA, in light canoe,
By friths and shallows of fretted cloudland
Cruises monthly; with chrism of dews
And drench of dream, a drizzling glamour,
Enchants us–the cheat! changing sometime
A mind to madness, melancholy pale,
Bleached with gazing on her blank count’nance
Orb’d and ageless. In earth’s bosom
The shower of her rays, sharp-feathered light
Reaching downward, ripens silver,
Forming and fashioning female brightness,
–Metal maidenlike. Her moist circle
Is nearest earth. Next beyond her
MERCURY marches;–madcap rover,
Patron of pilf’rers. Pert quicksilver
His gaze begets, goblin mineral,
Merry multitude of meeting selves,
Same but sundered. From the soul’s darkness,
With wreathed wand, words he marshals,
Guides and gathers them–gay bellwether
Of flocking fancies. His flint has struck
The spark of speech from spirit’s tinder,
Lord of language! He leads forever
The spangle and splendour, sport that mingles
Sound with senses, in subtle pattern,
Words in wedlock, and wedding also
Of thing with thought. In the third region
VENUS voyages…but my voice falters;
Rude rime-making wrongs her beauty,
Whose breasts and brow, and her breath’s sweetness
Bewitch the worlds. Wide-spread the reign
Of her secret sceptre, in the sea’s caverns,
In grass growing, and grain bursting,
Flower unfolding, and flesh longing,
And shower falling sharp in April.
The metal copper in the mine reddens
With muffled brightness, like muted gold,
By her fingers form’d. Far beyond her
The heaven’s highway hums and trembles,
Drums and dindles, to the driv’n thunder
Of SOL’s chariot, whose sword of light
Hurts and humbles; beheld only
Of eagle’s eye. When his arrow glances
Through mortal mind, mists are parted
And mild as morning the mellow wisdom
Breathes o’er the breast, broadening eastward
Clear and cloudless. In a clos’d garden
(Unbound her burden) his beams foster
Soul in secret, where the soil puts forth
Paradisal palm, and pure fountains
Turn and re-temper, touching coolly
The uncomely common to cordial gold;
Whose ore also, in earth’s matrix,
Is print and pressure of his proud signet
On the wax of the world. He is the worshipp’d male,
The earth’s husband, all-beholding,
Arch-chemic eye. But other country
Dark with discord dins beyond him,
With noise of nakers, neighing of horses,
Hammering of harness. A haughty god
MARS mercenary, makes there his camp
And flies his flag; flaunts laughingly
The graceless beauty, grey-eyed and keen,
Blond insolence – of his blithe visage
Which is hard and happy. He hews the act,
The indifferent deed with dint of his mallet
And his chisel of choice; achievement comes not
Unhelped by him – hired gladiator
Of evil and good. All’s one to Mars,
The wrong righted, rescued meekness,
Or trouble in trenches, with trees splintered
And birds banished, banks fill’d with gold
And the liar made lord. Like handiwork
He offers to all – earns his wages
And whistles the while. White-feathered dread
Mars has mastered. His metal’s iron
That was hammered through hands into holy cross,
Cruel carpentry. He is cold and strong,
Necessity’s song. Soft breathes the air
Mild, and meadowy, as we mount further
Where rippled radiance rolls about us
Moved with music – measureless the waves’
Joy and jubilee. It is JOVE’s orbit,
Filled and festal, faster turning
With arc ampler. From the Isles of Tin
Tyrian traders, in trouble steering
Came with his cargoes; the Cornish treasure
That his ray ripens. Of wrath ended
And woes mended, of winter passed
And guilt forgiven, and good fortune
Jove is master; and of jocund revel,
Laughter of ladies. The lion-hearted,
The myriad-minded, men like the gods,
Helps and heroes, helms of nations
Just and gentle, are Jove’s children,
Work his wonders. On his white forehead
Calm and kingly, no care darkens
Nor wrath wrinkles: but righteous power
And leisure and largess their loose splendours
Have wrapped around him – a rich mantle
Of ease and empire. Up far beyond
Goes SATURN silent in the seventh region,
The skirts of the sky. Scant grows the light,
Sickly, uncertain (the Sun’s finger
Daunted with darkness). Distance hurts us,
And the vault severe of vast silence;
Where fancy fails us, and fair language,
And love leaves us, and light fails us
And Mars fails us, and the mirth of Jove
Is as tin tinkling. In tattered garment,
Weak with winters, he walks forever
A weary way, wide round the heav’n,
Stoop’d and stumbling, with staff groping,
The lord of lead. He is the last planet
Old and ugly. His eye fathers
Pale pestilence, pain of envy,
Remorse and murder. Melancholy drink
(For bane or blessing) of bitter wisdom
He pours out for his people, a perilous draught
That the lip loves not. We leave all things
To reach the rim of the round welkin,
Heaven’s heritage, high and lonely.

 

 

4 thoughts on “Venus

  1. rosestrang Post author

    It’ll be lovely to see you here! Thanks Liza, and I look forward to the Thursday event too 🙂 x

    Like

    Reply

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