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Elinor Wylie: Castilian

Velázquez took a pliant knife 
And scraped his palette clean; 
He said, “I lead a dog's own life 
Painting a king and queen.” 

He cleaned his palette with oily rags 
And oakum from Seville wharves; 
“I am sick of painting painted hags 
And bad ambiguous dwarves. 

“The sky is silver, the clouds are pearl, 
Their locks are looped with rain. 
I will not paint Maria's girl 
For all the money in Spain.” 

He washed his face in water cold, 
His hands in turpentine; 
He squeezed out colour like coins of gold 
And colour like drops of wine. 

Each colour lay like a little pool 
On the polished cedar wood; 
Clear and pale and ivory-cool 
Or dark as solitude. 

He burnt the rags in the fireplace 
And leaned from the window high; 
He said, “I like that gentleman's face 
Who wears his cap awry.” 

This is the gentleman, there he stands, 
Castilian, sombre-caped, 
With arrogant eyes, and narrow hands 
Miraculously shaped.

Public Domain

Elinor Morton Wylie (1885 – 1928) was an American poet and novelist popular in the 1920s and 1930s. She was famous during her life for her ethereal beauty and her scandalous love affairs.


Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599 – 1660) was a Spanish painter, the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV, and one of the most important painters of the Spanish Golden Age. He painted initially in a precise style, but later developed a free manner characterized by bold brushwork that produced an illusion of form only when viewed at a suitable distance. In addition to numerous renditions of scenes of historical and cultural significance, he painted scores of portraits of the Spanish royal family, other notable European figures, and commoners.

Buffoon with Books by Diego Velázquez (from the collection of the Museo de Prado)

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