You say that a science is correspondingly more noble to the extent that it embraces a more worthy subject, and accordingly, that a spurious speculation about the nature of god is more valuable than one concerned with something less elevated. In reply we will state that painting, which embraces only the works of God, is more worthy than poetry, which only embraces the lying fictions of the works of man. – Leonardo da Vinci, Trattato della pittura (“Treatise on Painting”)
We have in our library a collection of the writings of Leonardo da Vinci, which includes various passages wherein he defends painting against those who maintain that as a mechanical art it is inferior to the liberal arts. I can’t say that I agree with all of his arguments placing painting above poetry, but one has to admire the energy with which he defends his beloved art.
Early last week, Michael, knowing that I’d been feeling down, brought home a little pot with flowers for me, which was lovely. For fully a week I walked past them, thinking thoughts of Wordsworth wandering lonely as a cloud, and about Keats, and poetry generally. Then today it hit me that they are not daffodils at all, but tulips; and my brain had been innocent of this realization, in spite of the evidence, for a whole week. I was reminded of a joke Michael told me when we were first dating: What’s the difference between a liberal arts major and a large pizza? Answer: A large pizza can feed a family. Well. . .well all I can say is, the kids had all been fed by 8:45 this morning. So there.
CORRECTION: Yikes, I made a mistake. Michael says he told me that joke comparing musicians to a large pizza (he is one himself – a musician, that is.) I must have conflated his telling it with someone else telling the same joke about liberal arts majors. He said, “[B]y the time I met you, I was long past the juvenile phase of scorning liberal arts majors, and as a kind of penance I don’t even joke about them now.” Score for the liberal arts!