“Greek Slave” by Hiram Powers


“Greek Slave”, 1873, by Hiram Powers

About fig leaves they were never wrong–
slap one on and whee ding dong–
you had a grand old statue that
even tots could gander at.
So, with the he==
but the she, the she–
choices there were not smooth–
a fig just (didn’t) fit her groove.
(It seems a sculpted ribbed curled leaf
was deemed an insufficient sheathe.)
The female whether marble, bronze,
if she were to have nothing on
needed to stand exactly so
with one thigh crossed and on tiptoe,
one hand, drape fold, just chanced to rest
over that place where babies nest
(you know, when dropped by friendly stork
‘twixt legs you’d n’er describe as forked.)

How beautiful, though, the breasts that rise
so perkily ‘neath downcast eyes,
the lids so modest, groomed, demure,
every hair (upon her head) so pure–
At manacled wrist, a rosary,
so surely we’re allowed to see
those breasts again, look long and hard,
their nudity no fault of art,
nor of the girl–a slave was she,
say the spellbound somewhat breathlessly.


A ditty for Margaret Bednar’s prompt “Artistic Interpretations” on With Real Toads.  Margaret poses as the prompt a series of  (mainly) 19th century marble sculptures from the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. (My hometown!)  It is my understanding that fig leaves were used, especially by Victorians, for male sculptures, and not for female sculptures, who were typically placed in a “pudica pose.”  (Margaret says this sculpture one of the first publicly accepted nude sculptures in the prurient nineteenth century U.S.A., accepted in part because the girl was a slave, whose nudity was imposed against her will.)

I have some intermediate alternate lines, but they felt a bit too raunchy too use.  I don’t mind raunchy, but unfortunately, so much raunchy speech has echoes that could be deemed as demeaning to woman. I try to be rather careful of those things, so chose the more Victorian route.

Thanks, Margaret, for the beautiful photo.  Rights reserved to her for that, poem mine. 

And please if you have a minute check out my little-bit raunchy, but in a most not demeaning to women, book, Nice.   (Pic and cover design below mine.) 

PP Native Cover_4696546_Front Cover


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22 Comments on ““Greek Slave” by Hiram Powers”

  1. Helen Says:

    Delightful ditty …. she said, as NICE downloads onto her Kindle!

  2. Susan Says:

    I laughed aloud at the first few lines, and then looked more closely to make sure you intended it. Such a fun indictment of prurient and prude art–so innocent and so available.

  3. The rhyme carries your reader, K…enjoyed your thoughts on this.

  4. vandana Says:

    The beauty in the hands of beast 😦

  5. Mama Zen Says:

    Oh, K! We went to the same place . . . but I went raunchier. Love this.

  6. Grace Says:

    I like the modesty despite the manacled wrist ~ Love where this took you K ~

  7. hedgewitch Says:

    Very interesting that the enslaved part made her nudity acceptable–and I love your little word plays throughout–the stork one especially. For me, the face is so much more…matronly…than it is seductive, but the body is pure nymphet–an odd sculpture with an odd mood to it–and I think your poem rides that ambivalence perfectly.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      The face is very matronly– but that may have been their idea of Greek. A Greek goddess. Who knows? I do not think they were actually thinking of slavery very much. It’s an odd period honestly. K.


  8. Lord, Karen, you slayed me – SLEW me? – with this one. I will check out your book (you know me, crass as they come, I wonder if I can conjure a blush for you, lol). The best couplet, in perfect iambic pentamethingie, was:
    (It seems a sculpted ribbed curled leaf
    was deemed an insufficient sheathe.)

    Now that is writing, girl!! Amy

  9. grapeling Says:

    I think that I shall never see
    a nude handled so gracefully
    an era indicted
    her nudity sighted
    only because slaves were property
    and if she were attired properly
    with fig or leaf?
    Then, what *is* proper? A Victorian belief?

    OK, I’ve run to the end of my rhyme.
    Enjoyed the ditty, k – until next time ~

  10. Brendan Says:

    I sometimes wonder if all women feel enslaved to the x-ray vision of men’s prying eyes … I’ll plead biology, but Hiram here did keep matters in her own hand in a way that feels fleeting, dangit, missed the view by that passing obstruction. The joke on us, perhaps to the girl’s delight. But who is really manacled but the viewer to the nude? Anyhoo, perhaps many artists turned to sirens and melusinas for their naked subjects, because you didn’t have to fret the details south of the belly button. (Leaving to others to solve the Mermaid Problem, that of how you have sex with one.) The propriety here perhaps is what makes the marble endure.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ha! Well, I think oddly the person depicting a woman in this way may not be completely in love with a real woman south of the border as you say. I don’t actually mean to generalize! But the prurient taste also really squashes women — as MZ points out so well–it’s all interesting. I think of someone like Courbet–so different–you know what I mean! A very different take there–k.

  11. Kerry O'Connor Says:

    I found your satire thoroughly entertaining! (My thoughts on hearing Powers’ reasoning for showing the woman nude were along the lines of: Methinks he protests too much… especially given his Eve who has no qualms about revealing all!)

    I love your poem, which I read as being in defense of womanhood, our bodies a far more sacred thing than men (and art) have given credit for.

    a fig just (didn’t) fit her groove!

  12. margaret Says:

    I find it interesting that “man” seems to always make a female “perfect” My daughter has drawn numerous nudes and she adore the rounded, not so perfectly “in-shape” forms. I have one such “imperfect” drawing framed and on my wall. Of course, it isn’t my husband’s favorite – go figure. This poem is so witty and so FUN – yet has quite the satirical edge to it. Well done!

  13. LOVE your opening lines. Reminded me of my mother, recalling the first time she saw male genitalia in real life – back in the 30’s – being aghast at the lack of fig leaves….LOL.

  14. So strange that nudity against one’s will was more acceptable than it was willfully.. in my head that’s 180 degrees from my view…

  15. Your poem’s got a lovely cadence. I read it a couple of times. beautiful. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  16. humbird Says:

    Love the line in brackets ‘(It seems a sculpted ribbed curled leaf
    was deemed an insufficient sheathe.)’.
    So playful poem, rhythm and ironic phrases make it fun to read. Great writing!

  17. brian miller Says:

    nicely done..your tale carries us along…esp with the rhyme…the art appreciator and american society will often be consumed with the beauty of the form and not realize the story behind it…

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