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Marriage consists of two sequences of poems. The first is loosely based on the relationship between Pierre Bonnard and his muse and model, who was also his wife. It is a rich pattern for the study of the mysteries of domesticity, the unspoken privacies and intimacies that can exist between two people. For the painter, problems of seeing become, for the husband, problems of knowing. ‘Marriage’ is an inspired portrait of conjugality, exact, watchful and understated. The second sequence, ‘Lepus’, extends an interest in the hare as trickster, traceable elsewhere in David Harsent’s work, and most recently in ‘The Woman and the Hare’, a piece commissioned by the Nashe Ensemble, set to music by Harrison Birtwistle, and first performed at the South Bank Centre in 1999.
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