A Candle for Piers Plowright
The Hunters in the Snow Oil-on-wood, 1565.
Pieter Brueghel the Elder.
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
They were skating when the elder Brueghel
sent his men and dogs homeward across snow
and the long evening’s first frail candle
lit a valley window somewhere below
them, the distant glow in the dusk a thrill
of fire beneath the mountain. A known light
hung on darkness, owning the sacred skill
to take thought on to where a prayer might
transcend the loneliest friable gleam,
blaze up into night and set it apart
from other meanings. Or so it would seem
from the spreading scintillas candles start.
A wished-on flame can shape walls’ winter frieze
to benediction. And the hunter sees.