Dante Gabriel Rossetti – The Portrait, 1870

dg rossetti joli coeur 1867

This is her picture as she was:
It seems a thing to wonder on,
As though mine image in the glass
Should tarry when myself am gone.
I gaze until she seems to stir,–
Until mine eyes almost aver
That now, even now, the sweet lips part
To breathe the words of the sweet heart:–
And yet the earth is over her.

Alas! even such the thin-drawn ray
That makes the prison-depths more rude,–
The drip of water night and day
Giving a tongue to solitude.
Yet only this, of love’s whole prize,
Remains; save what in mournful guise
Takes counsel with my soul alone,–
Save what is secret and unknown,
Below the earth, above the skies.

In painting her I shrin’d her face
Mid mystic trees, where light falls in
Hardly at all; a covert place
Where you might think to find a din
Of doubtful talk, and a live flame
Wandering, and many a shape whose name
Not itself knoweth, and old dew,
And your own footsteps meeting you,
And all things going as they came.

A deep dim wood; and there she stands
As in that wood that day: for so
Was the still movement of her hands
And such the pure line’s gracious flow.
And passing fair the type must seem,
Unknown the presence and the dream.
‘Tis she: though of herself, alas!
Less than her shadow on the grass
Or than her image in the stream.

That day we met there, I and she
One with the other all alone;
And we were blithe; yet memory
Saddens those hours, as when the moon
Looks upon daylight. And with her
I stoop’d to drink the spring-water,
Athirst where other waters sprang;
And where the echo is, she sang,–
My soul another echo there.

But when that hour my soul won strength
For words whose silence wastes and kills,
Dull raindrops smote us, and at length
Thunder’d the heat within the hills.
That eve I spoke those words again
Beside the pelted window-pane;
And there she hearken’d what I said,
With under-glances that survey’d
The empty pastures blind with rain.

Next day the memories of these things,
Like leaves through which a bird has flown,
Still vibrated with Love’s warm wings;
Till I must make them all my own
And paint this picture. So, ‘twixt ease
Of talk and sweet long silences,
She stood among the plants in bloom
At windows of a summer room,
To feign the shadow of the trees.

And as I wrought, while all above
And all around was fragrant air,
In the sick burthen of my love
It seem’d each sun-thrill’d blossom there
Beat like a heart among the leaves.
O heart that never beats nor heaves,
In that one darkness lying still,
What now to thee my love’s great will
Or the fine web the sunshine weaves?

For now doth daylight disavow
Those days,–nought left to see or hear.
Only in solemn whispers now
At night-time these things reach mine ear;
When the leaf-shadows at a breath
Shrink in the road, and all the heath,
Forest and water, far and wide,
In limpid starlight glorified,
Lie like the mystery of death.

Last night at last I could have slept,
And yet delay’d my sleep till dawn,
Still wandering. Then it was I wept:
For unawares I came upon
Those glades where once she walk’d with me:
And as I stood there suddenly,
All wan with traversing the night,
Upon the desolate verge of light
Yearn’d loud the iron-bosom’d sea.

Even so, where Heaven holds breath and hears
The beating heart of Love’s own breast,–
Where round the secret of all spheres
All angels lay their wings to rest,–
How shall my soul stand rapt and aw’d,
When, by the new birth borne abroad
Throughout the music of the suns,
It enters in her soul at once
And knows the silence there for God!

Here with her face doth memory sit
Meanwhile, and wait the day’s decline,
Till other eyes shall look from it,
Eyes of the spirit’s Palestine,
Even than the old gaze tenderer:
While hopes and aims long lost with her
Stand round her image side by side,
Like tombs of pilgrims that have died
About the Holy Sepulchre.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1828-1882

The Portrait. Poems, 1870

Image. D. G. Rossetti.  Joli Coeur. Oil on Panel,  1867. 38.1 x 30.2 cm. ©City of Manchester Art Galleries

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William Combe – The Tour of Doctor Syntax, in Search of Consolation, 1820

dr syntax sketching the lake. picturesque

Now in grave, contemplative mood.
Syntax his beauteous way pursued;
Detaching with his skilful eye.
From this proud stretch of scenery.
Such chosen parts as might display.
The landscape grand, or rude, or gay;
The spreading wood, the awful steep.
Impending o’er the crystal deep.
And many a more familiar scene.
That here and there might intervene.
Such as his less ambitious art
To the fair sketch-book could impart.
And graphic notices secure.
To give these views a miniature.

The native beauties that preside
And form the charms of AMBLESIDE,
As they all open’d on the sight,
Perplex’d the bosom with delight:
__” Then Stockgill Force, with deaf’ning roar,
Did from a height stupendous pour
Its rushing streams from unseen source
Impetuous; they their foaming coarse,
Dash’d on from rock to rock, pursue.
Now hid, now open to the view:
When, many a craggy bottom past,
They the deep Rothay reach at last,
And, rushing on in bold career,
Give up their waves to WINDERMERE.

At once delighted and amaz’d,
Syntax now made a pause and gaz’d;
Though in his visits here before
This scene his eyes had wander’d o’er.
Nay, here his pencil had essay’d.
And with attentive pleasure made
Bold sketches from this very scene.
Where with his neighbours he had been;
Yet former knowledge to renew,
He thought he now would take a view.
And from his pouch the sketch-book drew
Thus while his Art he now employ’d
And the rich scene around enjoy’d.
Forth from behind a bulky tree.
As urg’d by curiosity,
A person stole with gentle pace
And keen enquiry in his face:
At length he grew a little bolder.
And just peep’d o’er the Doctor’s shoulder.
With a keen, forward eye to see
The pencil’s active industry.
Says PAT, ” unless you court disaster,
You’d better not disturb my master.
For if you do, __” you may not dream
That you’ll go headlong down the stream.”
Syntax now look’d around to see
What caus’d Pat’s incivility.
Then quickly wav’d his awful hand.
And as he dealt forth the command;
He taw half-screen’d beside a bush,
What seem’d a brother of the brush,
Who ‘neath each arm display’d to show
A cumbersome Port-Folio:
And on his dress, through ey’ry part,
Was seen some implement of Art:
But soon he prov’d, without restraint.
That he could talk as well as paint.

Artist.

“From what I see and doth appear.
You, Sir, may be a stranger here;
And as you now employ your Art,
I may some useful hints impart.
I am an Artist, would you see
Art’s finest works, pray come with me.
You may view all, if you are willing;
The Exhibition costs a shilling;
And in this stream I would be drown’d.
Should you not think it worth a pound.
Nay, if your means the price supply.
Such as you chuse, why you may buy.”

Syntax, it seems, had heard before
Of this same Artist, (with his store
Of Sketches, Drawings and Designs,
Display’d on walls and hung on lines,)
Who does to rival skill demur.
And is his own Interpreter.
So he indulged him in his glory.
And let him enter on his story.
__” As he the Exhibition view’d,
The Artist his discourse pursued.

Artist.

“I need not tell you. Sir, that Art
Demands a power in ev’ry part,
Which should pervade its form and feature;
And that, as you must know, is NATURE.
Say, wherefore, does my active eye
Seize on her various scenery?
And wherefore is it thus confest.
That I ne’er fail to chuse the best?
__” Because I seek her wheresoe’er
She woos me to her mild and fair;
Because, when she’s sublimely good,
She courts me in the wild and rude,
I ask you where is her abode
Which by my feet has not been trod?
The heights, the depths, the falling floods,
The rugged rocks or spreading woods?
Where, tell me, is th’ Arcadian scene.
With sunshine gay, as em’rald green.
Where my researches have not been?
In all this beauteous country round,
No, not a spot is to be found.
At orient morn, or evening grey.
Where I’ve not urg’d my studious way:
Where, by a nice experience taught.
Each varying, transient tint is caught.
Here clouds upon the mountain rest.
And sink in mists upon its breast:
Here the light falls with silver beam.
Or the sun glows with golden gleam.
There the flood pours its foamy wave.
Or various forms in shadow lave;
And, glimm’ring in the crystal plain.
In fainter outline live again.
There, where is seen within the glade.
The less or greater depth of shade;
Where the thin air conducts the eye.
Transparent mirror, to the sky;
And wheresoe’er the varying feature
Aids the full aggregate of Nature,
My Art can dip the pencil in it,
And fix the beauty of the minute.
__Hence my superior works, and hence
In Art I claim pre-eminence.
__There are your Artists, who, in town.
From gaudy daubs expect renown;
Whose rank true taste will ne’er prefer
To that of an Upholsterer;-
Nor does their utmost stretch of art
Excel the Paper-Stainer’s part.
They do not Nature’s works pursue.
As I with patient labour do.
They may from some steep warehouse ridge
Sketch water-falls at London-Bridge;
Or study the transparent wave.
That does the grassy meadows lave.
Where the New River’s lagging on
Through the bright scene of Islington:
They let their wearied pencil breathe.
From crowded choice, on Hampstead-Heath,
Or leaning ‘gainst a stunted oak.
Make bright designs of London smoke :
There they in tints so mild and mellow.
May mark out sunbeams red and yellow.
And study foliage from a rood.
Or a score yards, of underwood:
Then their big minds with mountains fill.
By views of Harrow-on-the-Hill;
And catch, from the New Road so strait.
The Picturesque of Turnpike Gate.
There’s Hyde- Park too, the charming scene.
Which they may view so flat, so green;
And trace the ever-varying line.
Along the strait-bank’d Serpentine.
Thus with their pencils on they go,
From low to high, from high to low.
And fancy hills, as they move on
The level walks of Kensington;
Where, though it loyal bosoms shock.
They turn the Palace to a Rock.
Some will the Picturesque beseech
To aid the view of Chelsea- Reach;
But left by Genius in the lurch,
Can only reach to Chelsea-Church:
Then, as it were, to crown the whole.
To fill the view, to charm the soul,
How proudly they let loose their eye,
From St. Paul’s Golden Gallery,
To view the vast horizon round
That half-a-dozen miles may bound.
__These glorious Artists of the Town,
Will club expenses to come down.
The boast of Nature here to see
And slyly borrow Art from me.
Yes, I have often seen them smile.
Their fruitless envy to beguile.
__But now pray turn your eye to see
What hangs on lines from tree to tree.
They are my works which I display
In the full air of open day:
And, though expos’d to sun and sky,
My Colours, Sir, will never fly.”

Syntax.

“Upon my word you make me stare.
And I most solemnly declare,
I thought them linen that you wear;
Your shirts and shifts hung out to dry,
In washerwoman’s symmetry.”

Artist.

“Not one R. A. has got the gift
To make him such a shirt or shift;
They’re first-rate works that deck the line,
‘Twas this hand drew them, they are mine,
And I declare among them all
That each is an Original

Syntax.

“‘Tis not for me to controvert
What you so boldly do assert;
But as my eye these drawings strike,
They, my good friend, are all alike.
You cannot wish the truth to smother,
That they are Copies of each other.
If so, why, surely, he who calls
These copied works Originals
Gives such a meaning to the word,
I as a scholar never heard.”

Artist.

“I tell you, if the copies prove,
(Nor does my understanding rove,)
True both in tint and touch and line.
To the original design.
And copied by the self-same hand
That does my pencil’s power command;
Those Drawings, must to Critic eye.
Share in th’ Originality;
And be the number what they may.
If they unerring Truth display,
I say, in spite of envy’s brawls,
That they are all ORIGINALS.”

Syntax.

“At least, I think it must be known.
That, Mr, Artist, you are one.”

By these keen fancies rendered gay,
Syntax proceeded on his way.

At length, a beauteous place of rest,
Lowood, receives the trav’lling guest.
And here he found a two-fold treat;-
Hungry, he relish’d what he eat;
While Nature did his bosom cheer,
As he glanc’d over Windermere.
The humbler views that deck the Lake,
The hills, the groves, the farms that break
In blended beauty on the sight.
He saw, but the bold mountain’s height.
Which gave the wond’rous scenes sublime.
He sought not, for he had not time.
And if he had, my simple rhyme
Would scarce have such a height assail’d.
Where far superior bards have fail’d.

William Combe, 1741-1823, illustrations by Thomas Rowlandson, 1756-1827

The Tour of Doctor Syntax, in Search of Consolation, 1820

William Combe – The Tour of Doctor Syntax in Search of Consolation, 1820

dr syntax portriat 5
__On the next day a friendly call
Re-summon’d him to Bounty-Hall.
The messenger, arriv’d from town.
Had brought the apparatus down.
By which the Doctor was to ply
His fav’rite art with novelty;
To see what his unpractis’d toil
Could do with canvas and with oil.
The pallet set, with colours grac’d.
The easel in due posture plac’d.
The curtain’d window’s soften’d glare.
Of fav’ring light th’ admitted share.
The Lady, seated and full-drest,
Call’d up those looks she thought the best.-

When Syntax, with uplifted eye,
And somewhat of a doubting sigh,
Whisper’d a soft soliloquy;
Or, with hesitation fraught,
Rather indulg’d a doubtful thought.

“How oft my pencil has prepar’d
To trace the guests of farmer’s yard.
How often has it brought to view
With nice design and likeness true.
The horse, the ass, the goat, the cow.
All sheltered by a barley-mow:
While here I’m puzzled at the feature
Of a human. Christian creature:
But patience calls me to the test.
And I must strive to do my best.”
He wav’d his pencil, form’d the line
That shapes the human face divine.
Gave all the features their due places,
And hop’d to finish with the graces.
Puffing and painting on he went,
Sometimes displeas’d, sometimes content.
Until it was too plainly seen.
One eye was blue, the other green;
Whereas, on a correct survey.
Her Ladyship’s bright eyes were grey.

The Lady when she took a view
Declar’d the gen’ral likeness true.
But still she thought it might be stronger:
He took the hint, and made it younger.
By daubing out and laying in
The tints alternate thick and thin.
He kept within a mod’ rate line:
But made the drap’ry wond’rous fine.

__She thought ‘twould have a pretty look
If in her hand she held a book.
Which, with a demi-serious mood.
Might much improve her attitude:
But it so happ’d, he cast an eye
Upon a cake and currant-pie,
Which an adjoining table grac’d
With other articles of taste;
And thus the Doctor, while proceeding.
Thought more of eating than of reading:
For here attention felt a break.
Out went the book __” What a mistake!
And in her hand he plac’d the cake.
__” The laugh was loud, they sought the board.
The cake was eat, the book restored,
The pencil mov’d, the flounces twirl
And, round the robe impetuous curl.
__” Syntax now thought, I’ve done my best;
At least, my Lady is well drest.
And, as my art can go no further,
I hope, without committing murther,
I have at length just made an end
Of my kind, hospitable friend.
__” The work, ’tis true, had no pretence
To that superior excellence
Which some could to the canvas give.
Whereon the figures seem to live;
And though this picture cannot vie
With aught ‘bove mediocrity,
Yet those to whom my Lady’s known
Did all the gen’ral likeness own;
And she herself, above the rest,
Her warm and grateful praise express’d.
__When ’twas presented to the eye.
In a room hung with tapestry,
Of ancient work, with figures grim
Of monstrous shape and threat’ning limb;
Whose colours, the whole room pervading,
Had for a century been fading;
The contrast gave a glowing grace,
Both to the air, the form, the face.
To which the Rev’ rend Limner’s art
Did those apparent powers impart.
That, to his eye, he scarce could tell
The wonder it was done so well.

William Combe, 1741-1823, illustrations by Thomas Rowlandson, 1756-1827
The Tour of Doctor Syntax in Search of Consolation, 1820

William Combe – The Tour of Doctor Syntax, in Search of a Wife, 1821

dr syntax 4
Syntax now set his heart at rest,
Thought what was done was for the best,
And to fill up the interval
He would on dear Miss PALLET call.
Here his reception was most kind: ”
Sweet manners with superior mind,
And taste and genius were combin’d.
__When the first formal chat was o’er,
The works of Artists they explore,
Whose labours gain’d the height of fame
And fix’d the imperishable name.
They then the living talents try,
With just remark and critic eye.
“And now,” she said, “you will incline
To tell me what you think of mine.
I hear you say, ‘ how sweet, how fine! ‘
But if, while your kind words commend,
You should see faults__ O what a friend! ”
“__I see no faults__ but let me tell,
The leading power of painting well
Must spring from studying various nature
In ev’ry form and ev’ry feature:

‘Tis that alone which can impart
The height and depth and breadth of art;
Nor do I see your pencil err
From that primeval character.”
“Doctor,” she said, “O will you stay
And take your dinner here to day:
You then will hear two Artists prate
Of Art and who each other hate.
Such things there are e’en lib’ral arts
Are known to poison human hearts,
And their warm feelings oft supply
With envy base and jealousy.”
__The Artists came ” Sir, Mr. B__
‘Tis Doctor Syntax : Mr. G__ ”
The dinner soon appear’d in view,
And pass’d as other dinners do:
But with the fruit the talk began,
And thus around the table ran.
__Said Syntax, ” I my wonder own
Where a fair lady’s art is shown,
That among all the figures here,
The God of Love does not appear.”
“__We known professors of the art,”
Says G__ ” have got him quite by heart:
We want no model, do you see,
Of this familiar Deity:
Sure am I, that I’m not so stupid,
But sleeping I could paint a Cupid.”__
“__I wish you would the trouble take
To paint a Cupid when awake,”
Said titt’ring B__ ” I know ’twill prove
A very sleepy God of Love.”
” Have done ! have done ! ” Miss Pallet said,
” The passion shall be well display’d,
Not as a Painter’s eye may view it,
But as the Doctor’s tongue can do it:-

And therefore, Sirs, I humbly move
That he may speak his thoughts on Love.”
“__’Tis a nice theme,” Syntax replied,
” But ladies must not be denied:
Mine are peculiar thoughts I fear,
And I ask candour’s self to hear.
__The passion that commands the heart
Is in this world a thing apart;
And throughout life, as we may learn,
Has nothing like a fix’d concern:
It makes fools wise, and wise men fools,
But not by any written rules.
Love, as recording Hist’ry shows,
Leads wisdom often by the nose:
Nature does female weakness arm
With that inexplicable charm
That oft without exterior grace,
Or piercing eye or lovely face,
Or e’en th’ alluring power of wit,
Makes all-presuming man submit;
Assumes the full domestic reign,
And sees him smile to wear the chain.
It is a secret sympathy, 1
A hidden power that doth decree,
As in the world we often see,
Natures the most oppos’d to join
At the matrimonial shrine;
Nay, has been often known to match
Affection warm with hands that scratch;
And e’en in Hymen’s net trepan,
The polish’d Peer and blowzy Nan.
Such the effect, but then the cause
Is work’d by Nature’s hidden laws,
And if you ask me to explain 1
The Whys and Wherefores, ’tis in vain,
I cannot, and think no man can.”

“__The Doctor knows the human heart,”
Says B__ ” but can he talk of Art? ”
“__That,” says the Lady, “will appear:
If you will listen, you shall hear.
__What think you of this sketch, my friend? ”
” In ev’ry part I do commend
Its force, its freedom,” Syntax said:
When either Artist shook his head.
The Doctor then, in prudence clos’d
The observations he propos’d:
But thus continued:- ” May I ask,
Should it be no unpleasant task,
To tell me, if the Arts abound ”
And flourish fair in British ground,
Where Science is so largely found?”
“__O no,” ’twas said, “they’re going down,
There’s scarce an Artist of renown.”
The Sage then mention’d many a name
That dwelt upon the lips of fame.
” O no,” they said ; then, one by one,
With many a shrug, they ran them down,
And only differ’d in degree,
As they let loose their calumny.
This colour’d not, that wanted vigour,
A third knew nothing of the figure:-
Thus having clos’d their critic law,
They Syntax ask’d if he could draw:
When he his ready pencil took
And in the blank page of a book,
Design’d a gallows, from which swung
Two figures that by cordage hung.
” Pray,” it was said, ” who may be those ?
They are two murderers I suppose.”
“Yes,” Syntax said, “of my formation,
They’re Murderers of REPUTATION”

William Combe, 1741-1823 , illustrations by Thomas Rowlandson, 1756-1827

The Tour of Doctor Syntax, in Search of a wife, 1821

William Combe – The English Dance of Death, 1815-16

dr syntax portrait skeleton

DEATH AND THE PORTRAIT.

BY Love conducted FLAVIA came,
(I must not tell her other name)
To yield the charms that deck her face,
Her Cherub smiles and Angel grace,
To the accomplish’d Painter’s art,
Which to the canvas might impart
The fair resemblance of a Maid,
Whom Nature had so well array’d.
FLAVIA was seated to receive
The Likeness which that art could give,
And while, obedient to his will,
The pencil mark’d its rapid skill,
Enamour’d FLORIO, who sat by,
And trac’d the work with curious eye,
By tender love and beauty fir’d,
And as the faithful Muse inspir’d,
In tuneful accents thus address’d
The fond instructions of his breast.—

‘ PAINTER, vain ‘s thy utmost art
‘ To draw the Idol of my heart:
‘ Thy canvas never can receive
‘ The varied charms her features give.
‘ When, grave, she wears the awful grace
‘ That ‘s seen in regal JUNO’S face:
‘ When on her cheeks the smiles appear,
‘ Tis VENUS better self is there;
‘ And when she looks with studious eye,
‘ Another PALLAS we descry.
‘ PAINTER, thy pencil well may trace
‘ A JUNO’S awful, heavenly grace;
‘ Upon your easel may be seen,
‘ Chaste Beauty’s fair, imperial Queen;
‘ E’en Wisdom’s goddess may appear
‘ In all her native splendor there:
‘ But in my breast alone can be
‘ The perfect image of the THREE.’

Thus did the Muse the art defy:
The Pencil, eager to reply,
Dash’d on the cloth, in colours warm,
The semblance of the lovely form.
And now her smiling cheeks disclose
The lily mingled with the rose;
And soon her beaming eyes dispense
The soften’d rays of manly sense:
Her graceful form, her auburn hair,
All, all the magic power declare.
Loose flows the robe upon the ground,
And many a Cupid flutters round:
The bending branches kindly spread
Their verdant beauties o’er her head,
And, far beyond, the hills arise
Which seem to mingle with the skies.
At length, with happiest art array’d,
The canvas’ spreading form display’d
The beauties of the charming maid.
The Artist then avow’d his pride,
And thus th’ enraptur’d Muse replied.

‘ Ah happy Canvas, that dost bear
The features of my lovely Fair.
Upon thy surface, mild and clear,
I see the heavenly form appear,
With all the glories of her face,
Her winning smiles and gentle grace.
But where ‘s the virtue of her mind,
Which makes her of Angelic kind ?
Where is the softness of her heart,
To pity prone and void of art ?
These cannot on thy bosom shine:
They ‘re only to be found in mine.’

Thus did the Muse pursue her song;
Nor did she do the Painter wrong.
Whatever bounties partial art
By Genius aided, can impart,
She knows are his, whose talents bear
The marks of their united care.
But frolic Nature will undo
The works of Art and Genius too :
Her cunning patterns render vain
The Painter’s toil, the Sculptor’s pain.
All of the Fair, that Art could give,
Does on the glossy canvas live;
In touches warm, and colours true,
As REYNOLDS’ pencil ever knew.

Thus FLORIO sung, and FLAVIA heard
The pleasing strain which Love preferred,
Nor did the Painter’s hand refuse
The aiding impulse of the Muse.

The Sitting o’er, the pair remove
To talk of Taste, and think of Love.
And while, as objects strike, they praise
The various works on which they gaze;
A far, far different form appears,
Bent with an heavy load of years:
For a short time the Figure stood,
The image of Decripitude;–
Then took his seat;—- when Art began
To sketch the good, old ALDERMAN,
Whose Portrait was to grace the wall
Of Cordwainers’ or Goldsmiths’ Hall.
The Painter mark’d the face of Age,
And dignified the Civic Sage,
With all the force and all the truth,
Which had pourtray’d the grace of youth.
At length, some yawning fits transpir’d
That mark’d the Alderman was tir’d.
‘ If, my good Sir,’ the Painter said,
‘ You wish the work to be delay’d;
‘ If, to retire it is your pleasure,
‘ My pencil waits upon your leisure.’
‘ I ‘m in no hurry,’ he replied,
‘ But I slept ill last night: beside,
‘ To tell the truth, I cannot say
‘ But I am out of sorts to-day;
‘ I have a feel I cannot name;
‘ A kind of chill throughout my frame,
‘ That seems to pour on ev’ry part,
‘ And threatens to approach my heart:
‘ Now, if you could some cordial give
‘ It might my languid state ‘relieve.’ —
‘ That you shall have,’ the Artist cried;
And soon his pallet laid aside:
Then hasten’d with no common speed,
To do the hospitable deed.

Scarce had he made this kind retreat,
When Death stepp’d in and took his seat:
And soon he chang’d the whole design:–
The lights which had been seen to shine,
Were more than half-obscur’d in shade;
And dismal tints the whole pervade:
The forehead ‘s moist with mortal dew ;
The sinking frame appears to view;
The head reclines in calm repose;
The lips grow pale, the eyelids close;
The yielding hand can grasp no more,
The crutch lies prostrate on the floor;
And, with one stroke, throughout the piece,
All animation ‘s made to cease.

–The Painter brings the promis’d aid,
And views the change that has been made.
He sees the Picture’s alter’d state,
And owns the master-hand of Fate.

‘ But why,’ he cries, ‘ should Artists grieve
‘ When MODELS die, if PICTURES live ? ‘

William Combe, 1741-1823, illustrations by Thomas Rowlandson, 1756-1827

The English Dance of Death, 1815-16

William Combe – The Tour of Doctor Syntax, in Search of the Picturesque, 1812

dr syntax gazing at some ruins-picturesqueSyntax.

NATURE, dear Nature,
is my goddess,
Whether array’d in
rustic bodice,
Or when the nicest
touch of Art
Doth to her charms new charms impart;
But still I, somehow, love her best
When she’s in ruder mantle drest:
I do not mean in shape grotesque.
But when she’s truly picturesque.

Thus the next morning as he stray’d,
And the surrounding scene survey’d,
Syntax exclaim’d. — A party stood
Just on the margin of the flood,
Who were in statú quo to make
A little voyage on the Lake,
The Doctor forward stepp’d to show
The wealth of his portfolio:
The ladies were quite pleas’d to view
Such pretty pictures as he drew;
While a young man, a neighb’ring ‘squire,
Expressed a very warm desire,
Which seem’d to come from honest heart,
That of their boat he’d take a part.

Now from the shore they quickl sail’d,
And soon the Doctor’s voice prevail’d.

” This is a lovely scene of nature;
But I’ve enough of land and water:
I want some living thing to show
How far the Picturesque will go.”

Lady.

” See, Sir, how swift the swallows fly!
And lo ! the lark ascends on high;
We scarce can view him in the sky.
Behold the wild-fowl, how they spread
Upon the Lake’s expansive bed:
The kite sails through the airy way,
Prepar’d to pounce upon its prey:
The rooks, too, from their morning food.
Pass cawing to the distant wood.”

Syntax.

“ When with a philosophic eye
The realms of Nature I descry,
And view the grace that she can give
To all the varying forms that live;
I feel with awe the plastic art,
That doth such wond’rous pow’rs impart
To all that wing the air, or creep
Along the earth, or swim the deep.
I love the winged world that flies
Through the thin azure of the skies;
Or, not ordain’d those heights to scan,
Live the familiar friends of man,
And, in his yard or round his cot.
Enjoy, poor things! their destin’d lot:
But though their plumes are gay with dyes,
In endless bright diversities,
What, though such glowing tints prevail,
When the proud peacock spreads his tail;
What, though the nightingales prolong
Through the charm’d night th’ enchanting song;
What, though the blackbird and the thrush
Make vocal ev’ry verdant bush;
Not one among the winged kind
Presents an object to my mind:
Their grace and beauty’s nought to me ;
In all their vast variety
The Picturesque I cannot see.

A carrion fowl tied to a stake
Will a far better picture make,
When, as a scare-crow, ’tis display’d
To make all thievish birds afraid.
Than the white swan, in all its pride,
Sailing upon the crystal tide.
As a philosopher, I scan
Whate’er kind Heav’n has made for man:
I feel it a religious duty
To bless its use and praise its beauty:
I care not whatsoe’er the creature,
Whate’er its name, its form and feature.
So that fond Nature will aver
The creature doth belong to her.
But though, indeed, I may admire ^
The greyhound’s form, and snake’s attire,
They neither will my object suit
Like a good shaggy, ragged brute.
I will acknowledge that a goose
Is a fine fowl, of sov’reign use:
But for a picture she’s not fitted —
The bird was made but to be spitted.
The pigeon, I’ll be bound to show it.
Is a fine subject for a poet;
In the soft verse his mate he woos,
Turns his gay neck, and bills and coos.
And, as in am’rous strut he moves,
Soothes the fond heart of him who loves:

But I’ll not paint him, no, not I —
I like him better in a pie.
Well rubb’d with salt and spicy dust.
And thus embodied in a crust.
How many a bird that haunts the wood,
How many a fowl that cleaves the flood.
With their sweet songs enchant my ear,
Or please my eye as they appear.
When in their flight, or as they row
Delighted on the lake below!
But still, whate’er their form or feather,
You cannot make them group together;
For let them swim or let them fly.
The Picturesque they all defy.
The bird that’s sitting quite alone
Is fit but to be carv’d in stone;
And any man of taste ‘twould shock
To paint those wild geese in a flock:
Though I like not a single figure.
Whether ’tis lesser or ’tis bigger:
That fisherman, so lean and lank.
Who sits alone upon the bank.
Tempts not the eye ; but, doff his coat,
And quickly group him with a boat.
You then will see the fellow make
A pretty object on the Lake.
If a boy’s playing with a hoop,
‘Tis something, for it forms a group.

In painters’ eyes — Oh, what a joke^
To place a bird upon an oak!
At the same time, ‘twould help the jest.
Upon the branch to fix a nest.
A trout, with all its pretty dyes

Of various hues, delights the eyes;
But still it is a silly whim
To make him on a canvass swim:
Yet, I must own, that dainty fish
Looks very handsome in a dish;
And he must be a thankless sinner.
Who thinks a trout a paltry dinner.

” The first, the middle, and the last.
In Picturesque, is bold contrast;
And painting has no nobler use
Than this grand object to produce.
Such is my thought, and I’ll pursue it;
There’s an example — you shall view it.
Look at that tree ; then take a glance

At its fine, bold protuberance;
Behold those branches — ^how their shade
Is by the mass of light display’d:
Look at that light, and see how fine
The backward shadows make it shine:
The sombre clouds that spot the sky.
Make the blue vaulting twice as high;

And where the sun-beams warmly glow.
They make the hollow twice as low.
The Flemish painters all surpass
In making pictures smooth as glass:
In Cuyp’s best works there’s pretty painting,
But the bold picturesque is wanting.

William Combe, 1741-1823 with images by Thomas Rowlandson, 1756-1827
The Tour of Doctor Syntax, in Search of the Picturesque, 1812. CANTO XIV

Image

John Keats – Ode on a Grecian Urn, 1819

Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e’er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” –that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

John Keats, : Ode on a Grecian Urn, 1819

Image: John Keats, Sketch of Grecian Urn, 1819