A Prayer To Go To Heaven With The Donkeys

A Prayer To Go To Heaven With The Donkeys, acrylic on cardboard, 50×70 cm

Recently, I have watched Hidden Away (2020), the movie by Giorgio Diritti based on the life of Italo-Swiss painter Antonio Ligabue.

The masterful performance of Elio Germano, which earned him the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 70th Berlin Film Biennale, perfectly captures the Naïf artist’s tormented creative energy.

Personally, I found the best scenes in the film to be those that illustrate the painter’s relationship with animals.

Far from the perfidious chatter of his peers, who disqualified the value of his life on the basis of his mental illness and his inability to contribute to the society of productive work, Ligabue found solace in the time he spent with animals.

How delicate his caresses to cats; how kind his hugs to donkeys; how amusing his marches in single file, behind geese; how fierce his imitations of the attacking tiger.

In these encounters, the fragile and agitated man had a new experience of himself. He recognized himself as a creature capable of love and compassion, able to take care of other living beings, more similar to him in their humility, than men who were proud of their normality.

These scenes brought my mind back to Francis Jammes’ poem, A Prayer To Go To Heaven With The Donkeys, which ends with lines of extraordinary purity:

Dear God, let it be with these donkeys that I come,
And let it be that angels lead us in peace
To leafy streams where cherries tremble in air,
Sleek as the laughing flesh of girls; and there
In that haven of souls let it be that, leaning above
Your divine waters, I shall resemble these donkeys,
Whose humble and sweet poverty will appear
Clear in the clearness of your eternal love.

Francis Jammes

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