Robert Bage – Hermsprong: or, Man As He Is Not, 1796

At the extremity of the pleasure ground, bordering on the moor, Lord Grondale, soon after his accession to the estate, had built a sort of pleasure house, an octagon, on an artificial mount. It had obtained the name of the pavilion. In his earlier years, his lordship made of it a sort of temple of fame, and adorned it with the portraits of his own best hunters and racers, and of those who had obtained the greatest renown on the arduous plains of Ascot and Newmarket. This taste declining, these portraits had given place to paintings of another species, capital, no doubt, his lordship having been considered as a connoisseur.

This pavilion Lord Grondale made a kind of sanctum; it was open only to himself, a few of his more particular friends on their annual visit, and once a week perhaps, usually on Sunday evening, to the person or merit. So it happened to be on the eve of that sabbath, so mortifying to Lord Grondale. From thence it was they saw the movements of the parties, as described in our 8th chapter of this volume; which ‘tortured his lordship almost to madness,’ and subjected Mrs. Stone to his stern rebuke, for the mere endeavour to reason him into placidity.

It was several evenings after this, when Lord Grondale had begun to long for a few of Miss Fluart’s sugared sweets, and Miss Fluart to wish he would, that this young lady was strolling the pleasure grounds alone; Miss Campinet having determined that evening to write to Mrs. Garnet; a thing she had attempted every day since her father’s prohibition, but in which she had not yet succeeded to her mind. A few yards from the pavilion, turning a walk, Miss Fluart almost ran against Lord Grondale. The good peer said, with a tone of good nature, “Have I the pleasure to see Miss Fluart here, and alone?”
“Caroline is indolent,” Miss Fluart answered; “she chose the zephyrs of her own apartment, rather than the zephyrs of your lordship’s groves. Oh dear, (she continued) now I think of it, I have long had a desire to take a peep into your lordship’s pavilion, where you have never yet invited me.”
“I invite you now, then,” said Lord Grondale, hobbling up the steps, and unlocking the door.”
“I hear,” says she, ascending, “it is a little palace of paintings.”

The first object which struck her view, was herself, her beauteous self, many times multiplied. This was fascinating no doubt, but she got rid of it as soon as she could, and threw her eye on a lovely piece, representing Jachimo taking notes of the mole cinque spotted on the beauteous bosom of Imogen. The next was Atalanta, straining to recover the ground she had lost by the golden apples; her bosom bare, her zone unloosed, her garments streaming with the wind. From the four following pieces, the pavilion might, not improperly, have been denominated the Temple of Venus. The first gave the goddess rising from the sea. The second, asleep; a copy of Titian. The third, accompanied with Juno and Minerva, appealing to Paris. The fourth, in Vulcan’s net with Mars.

However capital these might be, they were such as ladies are not accustomed to admire in the presence of gentlemen. There was, however, a superb sofa; on which a lady might sit down with all possible propriety. Miss Fluart did sit down; but the prospect from thence rather increased than diminished a little matter of confusion, which she felt on the view of the company she seemed to have got into.

She was rising to leave the pavilion, when his lordship, in the most gallant manner possible, claimed a fine, due he said, by the custom of the manor, from every lady who honoured that sofa by sitting upon it. His lordship meant simply a kiss, which I believe he would have taken respectfully enough, had Miss Fluart been passive; but, I know not why, the lady seemed to feel an alarm, for which probably she had no reason; and was intent only upon running away, whilst his lordship was intent only upon seizing his forfeit. A fine muslin apron was ill-treated upon this occasion; a handkerchief was ruffled, and some beautiful hair had strayed from its confinement, and wantoned upon its owner’s polished neck. She got away, however, from this palace of painting, and its dangerous sofa.

“Upon my word, my dear Miss Fluart,” said his lordship, getting down after her as fast as he was able, “you are quite a prude today. I thought you superior to the nonsense of your sex, the making such a rout about a kiss.”
“A kiss! Lord bless me,” said Miss Fluart, “I thought from the company your lordship had brought me into, and the mode of your attack, you had wanted to undress me.”
Lord Grondale burst into an immoderate laugh, and declared it was the drollest idea in the world. Miss Fluart laughed too, and stopped to hear his lordship’s exculpation; which she accepted without much difficulty, having a favour to ask, that could scarce be granted, except in his lordship’s very best humour.

Whether a kiss refused is more a promoter of love, than a kiss granted, or whether there is any thing inflammatory in pulling a young lady’s cloaths to pieces, it is certain Lord Grondale now found himself very seriously in love.

Robert Bage, 1730 – 1801
Hermsprong: or, Man As He Is Not, 1796

Image:  William Hogarth, Before and After, c.1730-1731, oil on canvas.  ©The Getty Center, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Robert Southey: Ariste

Let ancient stories round the painter’s art,
Who stole from many a maid his Venus’ charms,
Till warm devotion fired each gazer’s heart
And every bosom bounded with alarms.
He culled the beauties of his native isle,
From some the blush of beauty’s vermeil dyes,
From some the lovely look, the winning smile,
From some the languid lustre of the eyes.

Low to the finished form the nations round
In adoration bent the pious knee;
With myrtle wreaths the artist’s brow they crowned,
Whose skill, Ariste, only imaged thee.
Ill-fated artist, doomed so wide to seek
The charms that blossom on Ariste’s cheek!

 

Robert Southey, 1774-1843

Ariste (perfect), is the title of the Greek god Artemis

Image: 18th century portrait of Artemis (Artist unknown)

Robert W. Service: Picture Dealer

There were twin artists A. and B.
Who painted pictures two,
And hung them in my gallery
For everyone to view;
The one exhibited by A.
The name “A Sphere” did bear,
While strangely brother B’s display
Was catalogued: “A Square”.

Now although A. (and this is queer)
Could squeeze a pretty tube,
The picture that he called a Sphere
Was blocky as a cube;
While B. (though no hint he disclosed
To pull the public leg)
The Square he placidly exposed
Was oval as an egg.

Thought I: To sell these pictures two
I never will be able;
There’s only one thing I can do,
That’s change around the label.
The rotund one I called a Sphere,
The cornered one a Square . . .
And yet, I thought: It’s very queer,
Unbought they linger there.

Then strange as it may well appear,
Derision did I bare,
And blandly dubbed the Square a Sphere
And tabbed the Sphere a Square.
Behold the answer I had found,
For to my glad dismay
The curious came crowding round:
A sold the daubs next day.

Well, maybe A. and B. were right,
Not mugs like you and me,
With something missing in our sight
That only artists see.
So what it is and what it ain’t
I
‘ll never more discuss . . .
These guys believe in what they paint,
Or . . . are they spoofing us?

Robert W. Service, 1874-1958

Image: Sonia Delaunay, 1885-1979

U. A. Fanthorpe: Not my Best Side

I

Not my best side, I’m afraid,
The artist didn’t give me a chance to
Pose properly, and as you can see,
Poor chap, he had this obsession with
Triangles, so he left off two of my
Feet. I didn’t comment at the time
(What, after all, are two feet
To a monster?) but afterwards
I was sorry for the bad publicity.
Why, I said to myself, should my conqueror
Be so ostentatiously beardless, and ride
A horse with a deformed neck and square hoofs?
Why should my victim be so
Unattractive as to be inedible,
And why should she have me literally
On a string? I don’t mind dying
Ritually, since I always rise again,
But I should have liked a little more blood
To show they were taking me seriously.

II

It’s hard for a girl to be sure if
She wants to be rescued. I mean, I quite
Took to the dragon. It’s nice to be
Liked, if you know what I mean. He was
So nicely physical, with his claws
And lovely green skin, and that sexy tail,And the way he looked at me,
He made me feel he was all ready to
Eat me. And any girl enjoys that.
So when this boy turned up, wearing machinery,
On a really dangerous horse, to be honest
I didn’t much fancy him. I mean,
What was he like underneath the hardware?
He might have acne, blackheads or even
Bad breath for all I could tell, but the dragon–
Well, you could see all his equipment
At a glance. Still, what could I do?
The dragon got himself beaten by the boy,
And a girl’s got to think of her future.

III

I have diplomas in Dragon
Management and Virgin Reclamation.
My horse is the latest model, with
Automatic transmission and built-in
Obsolescence. My spear is custom-built,
And my prototype armour
Still on the secret list. You can’t
Do better than me at the moment.
I’m qualified and equipped to the
Eyebrow. So why be difficult?
Don’t you want to be killed and/or rescued
In the most contemporary way? Don’t
You want to carry out the roles
That sociology and myth have designed for you?
Don’t you realize that, by being choosy,
You are endangering job prospects
In the spear- and horse-building industries?
What, in any case, does it matter what
You want? You’re in my way.

Ursula Askham Fanthorpe, CBE, FRSL  22 July 1929 – 28 April 2009). English poet.

Paolo Uccello, 1397-1475, St. George and the Dragon, c.1456. National Gallery, London. Oil on canvas, 57 x 73 cm.

Robert W. Service: Artist

He gave a picture exhibition,
Hiring a little empty shop.
Above its window: FREE ADMISSION
Cajoled the passers-by to stop;
Just to admire – no need to purchase,
Although his price might have been low:
But no proud artist ever urges
Potential buyers at his show.

Of course he badly needed money,
But more he needed moral aid.
Some people thought his pictures funny,
Too ultra-modern, I’m afraid.
His painting was experimental,
Which no poor artist can afford-
That is, if he would pay the rental
And guarantee his roof and board.

And so some came and saw and sniggered,
And some a puzzled brow would crease;
And some objected: “Well, I’m jiggered!”
What price Picasso and Matisse?
The artist sensitively quivered,
And stifled many a bitter sigh,
But day by day his hopes were shivered
For no one ever sought to buy.

And then he had a brilliant notion:
Half of his daubs he labeled: SOLD.
And lo! he viewed with queer emotion
A public keen and far from cold.
Then (strange it is beyond the telling),
He saw the people round him press:
His paintings went – they still are selling…
Well, nothing succeeds like success.

Robert W. Service, 1874 – 1958

Image: Sonia Delaunay, 1885-1979

Bertolt Brecht: Not What Was Meant

When the Academy of Arts demanded freedom
Of artistic expression from narrow-minded bureaucrats
There was a howl and a clamour in its immediate vicinity
But roaring above everything
Came a deafening thunder of applause
From beyond the Sector boundary.
Freedom! it roared. Freedom for the artists!
Freedom all round! Freedom for all!
Freedom for the exploiters! Freedom for the warmongers!
Freedom for the Ruhr cartels! Freedom for Hitler’s generals!
Softly, my dear fellows…
The Judas kiss for the artists follows
Hard on the Judas kiss for the workers.
The arsonist with his bottle of petrol
Sneaks up grinning to
The Academy of Arts.
But it was not to embrace him, just
To knock the bottle out of his dirty hand that
We asked for elbow room.
Even the narrowest minds
In which peace is harboured
Are more welcome to the arts than the art lover
Who is also a lover of the art of war.

 

Bertholt Brecht, 1898 – 1956. Not What Was Meant

Image: Bust of Bertolt Brecht. From the Theater Berliner Ensemble

Lawrence Ferlinghetti – Don’t let that Horse

Don’t let that horse
eat that violin
cried Chagall’s mother

But he
kept right on
painting

And became famous

And kept on painting
The Horse With Violin In Mouth

And when he finally finished it
he jumped up upon the horse
and rode away
waving the violin

And then with a low bow gave it
to the first naked nude he ran across

And there were no strings
attached

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 1919.

Don’t let that horse. From Coney Island of the Mind. Copyright © 1958 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.