Melencholia I (Dürer’s Angel)


The comet tail has sliced the sky,

And rainbows with it sink the sun

Beneath a springing autumn tide:

A will which never will become.


The dust of spirits coat the walls

And count from numbered square to square.

Their flightless wings, which trick the skies,

Dissolve her memories into time.


And all around there lays the wreck

Of love and art, which break apart,

And carve their sorry tales away,

Into the pointlessness of life.


With watered crown and weighted wings,

She leans her heavy bones on bone.



3 Comments to “Melencholia I (Dürer’s Angel)”

  1. Why was the angel so sad? She looks unhappy in the painting as well. That’s a mystery to me. The poem is great. It flows good and makes me sad at the end. Thanks

    • There are many interpretations of this print. First thing to say is that in the originals the winged figure doesn’t look quite so sad as in reproductions (which tend to accentuate the shadows on her face). This leads on to the next point, which is she isn’t “sad” as such, but melancholic. This is more of a deeply existential state, rather than an emotion – and one related to aging, autumn and creativity. I’d definitely read around this print if you get a chance – the symbolism and interpretations are really fascinating.

  2. I know this print, and your interpretation feels resonant. Thank you for this.

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