Poetry and Art (7)

I’ll finish this section of 'Tuesday's Tales' with 2 poems by American poets – Walt Whitman and Helen Jackson, both of whom lived through the American Civil War.  I don’t know a great deal about them, and barely know any of their poems.

Walt Whitman was born in 1819, and lived to the grand old age of 73.  This poem is his tribute to Abraham Lincoln, whom he greatly admired, as a man and as a president.  The ‘captain’ in the poem is Lincoln; the ‘fearful trip’ is the Civil War; the ship is the United States; and the prize, the preservation of the union.

‘O Captain!  My Captain!’

O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done,

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;

But O heart! heart! heart!

       O the bleeding drops of red,

                   Where on the deck my Captain lies,

                               Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells:

Rise up – for you the flag is flung – for you the bugle trills,

For you the bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths – for you the shores a-crowding,

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning:

            Here Captain! dear father!

                        The arm beneath your head!

                                    It is some dream that on the deck.

                                                You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,

The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,

From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won:

            Exult O shores, and ring O bells!

                        But I with mournful tread,

                                    Walk the deck my Captain lies,

                                                Fallen cold and dead.

Helen Jackson was born in 1830 … there’s something about this poem that I instantly liked the first time I read it.  It was read at her simple funeral in 1885 … This may sound morbid, but I’ve already decided I would like this to be read at mine. 

‘Last Words’

Dear hearts, whose love has been so sweet to know,

That I am looking backward as I go,

Am lingering while I haste, and in this rain

Of tears of joy am mingling tears of pain;

Do not adorn with costly shrub, or tree,

Or flower, the little grave which shelters me.

Let the wild wind-sown seeds grow up unharmed,

And back and forth all summer, unalarmed,

Let all the tiny, busy creatures creep;

Let the sweet grass its last year’s tangles keep;

And when, remembering me, you come some day

And stand there, speak no praise, but only say,

‘How she loved us! ‘T was that which made her dear!’

Those are the words that I shall joy to hear.

A few more layouts …

The poem, ‘Hero to Leander’ by Tennyson, is in the card.

Art - 'Britomart and Amoret' ~ Mary Raphael

Double page spread for ‘Song of Four Fairies’ by John Keats.  The poem is behind the four cards of art by Alfons Mucha, depicting Poetry, Dance, Music and Painting.

‘The Accolade’, one of my favourite paintings by Edmund Blair Leighton, and because I mentioned before that it usually brings to mind Guinevere and Lancelot, I included text from Malory’s ‘Le Morte D’Arthur’. 

What I find appealing about this painting, the queen’s femininity shines through despite the fact she’s holding a sword, and performing a task that’s normally associated with men, even though it wasn’t unheard of for queens to bestow knighthood.  The sword appears light and graceful, as if mirroring its handler; the detail on her gown, from the embroidery to the way it folds and drapes – if I look at it for long enough, I feel it might be possible to reach in and actually touch it … I would love a gown like that; in fact I would quite happily dress in that fashion everyday … though with more practical sleeves ;)

I decided to see if I could dig up some information on Mr Blair Leighton’s inspiration, and found this from an early 1900s’ article …

Having decided on his arrangement, Mr Blair Leighton’s next care is to choose some incident or theme which will demonstrate it.  Often this is obtained by reading, and it has long been his habit to keep a notebook in which he enters ideas and incidents which come to him from reading or observation as lending themselves to pictorial treatment.  Thus his well-known picture, ‘The Accolade’, derived its inspiration from a French work on chivalry, which mentioned that even ladies occasionally conferred the order of knighthood on worthy men.

So, not inspired by Arthurian legend then …

This is the inside back cover; I love this material, reminiscent of a starry night.

Art - 'Night and Her Train of Stars' ~ Edward R. Hughes