On this blog, some scribbles include the Gilded Age in America and Belle Époque in Europe, as they overlapped with the Victorian Era in England. Posts and photos on this site are copyrighted, except for icons or pictures that are in the public domain.
Monday, March 18, 2013
Irises in Monet's Garden
Olive Trees in Bordighera
The flowering plum trees and cherry trees around town have shed their petals, scattering them on sidewalks like confetti. Now green leaves are unfurling; flowers uncurling. Spring has come to Sacramento, and with it the play of light and shadow dapples the streets. As I walk in Midtown, the lines of one of my favorite poems come to mind: “Pied Beauty”, by the Victoria poet and Jesuit priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889).
Glory be to God for dappled things,
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pierced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
I’ve always loved the splash of his words. And even though Hopkins suffered periods of despair during his short life, (short by today’s standards) this poem, written in 1877, overflows with a kindliness of spirit that must have always bubbled within. (You can read a deeper analysis of it HERE.)
And I've loved the "splashes" of beauty in an Impressionist painting. Four years before Hopkins wrote this poem, across the Channel, in in the Nadar studio in Paris, a group of painters gave the first of eight exhibitions (1874-1886) that earned their independent styles the name of “Impressionism.” Impressionism emphasized the play of light and shadow. To capture it, they painted en plein air, “in the open air”. In fact, if you look at the paintings above by Monet, a towering figure in the group who inspired them all and kept them from giving up,** you can think of the technique as a dappling of light and color. A Monet painting is a pied beauty. A painting by any of the Impressionists is a dappled beauty.
Each of them went their own way with the technique, of course, as any artist must. But all of the Impressionists left paintings dappled with color-saturated light. (You can see a complete list of the Impressionists HERE.) Whatever course their later individual styles took, each of them, like Hopkins, saw the world and left a response “whose beauty is past change.”
How about you? Do any of the impressionist painters affect you this way? If so, which one? Do you have a favorite Hopkins poem? Which one? Can you recommend another painter or poet whose work is a "pied beauty"? If so, please share.
*The Oxford Book of Short Poems, Chosen and Edited by P. J. Kavanagh and James Michie,
Oxford University Press, 1987
**The Impressionists, Text by Pierre Courthion, Translation by John Shepley, Special Limited Edition by Rēalitēs USA Pubications, Inc., 1980