Poetica Magazine

Poetica Magazine


“On Rembrandt’s ‘Moses with the Tablets of the Law’”

   Canvas, 1659, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin



Looming ahead in the octagonal

And spacious Rembrandt room, a canvas beckons

Suffused with warmths of browns and golds and bearing

Uncanny witness. After he drew near

The Hebrews’ camp and saw the calf, the dancing,

Then shattered the first set of holy tablets,

After the ecstasy of Hitler’s rants

And frenzied Nazi mobs here in Berlin,

Moses ascended Sinai once again.

We are given a second chance. His face aglow

From facing God, compassionate though wary,

Moses descends the mountain, arms held high,

Displaying the two tablets he has hewn.

Radiant blocks of Hebrew letters etched

In stone this time by a human hand command us:

“Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not bear false witness

Against your fellow” – faint words aglow in the dark.