Friday, April 23, 2010

Constable's Clouds
for Fred H Stocking
by Peter Filkins


Scudding through distances, hovering in blue
vacuities of a summer's day, cumuli
float upon the surface of a ranging eye
that studies their shape, analyzes their hue

in pigments now aswirl upon the palette,
soft collisions of white and red and grey
soon weathering the canvas, capturing a day
whose transience we know because he saw it

there in the changeable sky he stood beneath,
stratus and nimbus, thunderhead and puff
fixed in their currency, the consequence of
the raw prevailing wind on Hampstead Heath.

There are three more chapters to this memorial poem which I will post after my short explanation.  It appears that Filkins wrote this poem to honor a colleague who was fond of Constable and Clouds, both of which interest me.

Last year I visited the Frick and gazed at one rendition of Salisbury Cathedral, which rekindled my interest in Constable.  If I were re-doing college at this stage of the game, I might very well choose some sort of blended major that would allow me to combine subjects.

Art, science, geography, history, et cetera are all subjects easily covered by studying Constable.  I wish I'd been able to see the National Gallery exhibit of 2007.  The next best thing is reading all about it here.

Now for the rest of the story.


"no two days are alike, nor even two hours,"
and so his brush keeps on the move while he
does not, despising those who continually
ignore their craft by "running after pictures."

Weymouth, Harrow, Flatford, Dedham Vale,
ephemera beneath the sky's broad radius
casting England's neutral light on all that is
and eludes him, be it fame, or more so the pale

evening light off a dark grey effect-looking
eastwards" toward a drifting back of cloud
that's there, then gone, someone in the crowd
later calling his picture "a nasty green thing."


Maria coughs again, the taste of blood
causing a cloud of fear to pass across
her feverish bright-eyed gaze.  Soon loss
will fell him. "Every gleam of sunshine blighted,

can it be wondered I paint continual storms?"
Each gathering front, each rising eastern gale
turbid now with grief, as wind and hail
consume a placid landscape, unleashing forms

that build and threaten, yet do not release
him from the sadness planted in his heart,
the demands of composition, the rigor of art
as equal to rain as sun, misery as peace.


"I shall never feel again as I have felt,
the face of the world is totally changed to me."
And yet the sketches continue, originality
hard won upon the back of a life that's deal

with setback by studying atmospheric effect.
"Clouds, Moving very fast. With occasional
very bright openings to blue," the residual
of an autocumulus inhabiting the flex

of a brushstroke, "wind after rain in the morning"
the note he jots to catalogue the weather
he'll use, if not survive, observing much later,
"in truth, my art is another word for feeling."

I hope reading this poem inspires you as it does me on several levels.

But first, let me give credit where credit is due.

I learned about this poem from American Arts Quarterly, where it was published in the Spring 2009 edition.
They are a rich resource.

And last, but not least, the details about the painting in my FineArtFriday entry here.

Happy Friday!

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