To a Young Child

For the autumn equinox today, a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and a painting.

RedOnionAutumn2

Márgarét, are you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
—Gerard Manley Hopkins

A Wish

Yesterday was the birthday of Irish playwright and poet John Millington Synge (1871-1909) and today the anniversary of my mother’s passing. To honor both the poet and the gardener, I post this poem and a new painting.

GoldenDaffodil

May seven tears in every week,
Touch the hollow of your cheek,
That I—signed with such a dew—
For the Lion’s share may sue
Of roses ever curled
Round the may-pole of the world.
Heavy riddles lie in this,
Sorrow’s sauce for every kiss.

—John Millington Synge

YCandleMom

CakeStrawberriesMonique

Arts and Crafts

Garlic&Lace

On Saturday I’ll be a participant in the Chevy Chase Art and Craft Fair, showing some of my small paintings and (for smaller budgets) notecards that have been made from them. At the fair will be over 30 local artists and craftspeople with their paintings and prints, jewelry, glassware, clothing, and painted furniture. I hope I will have a chance to leave my own table and look around at the others!

 

Animal Crackers

A painting for this season, along with a poem of which my daughter is very fond—perhaps because it concerns a beloved winter treat.

Cocoa&Animals

Animal crackers and cocoa to drink,
That is the finest of suppers I think;
When I’m grown up and can have what I please
I think I shall always insist upon these.
What do YOU choose when you’re offered a treat?
When Mother says, “What would you like best to eat?”
Is it waffles and syrup, or cinnamon toast?
It’s cocoa and animals that I love most!

The kitchen’s the cosiest place that I know;
The kettle is singing, the stove is aglow,
And there in the twilight, how jolly to see
The cocoa and animals waiting for me.

Daddy and Mother dine later in state,
With Mary to cook for them, Susan to wait;
But they don’t have nearly as much fun as I
Who eat in the kitchen with Nurse standing by;
And Daddy once said, he would like to be me
Having cocoa and animals once more for tea.

—Christopher Morley

CakeSnowmanMegan

YCandleSister Mary Daniel

Corcoran Community Art Fair

Marigold&YellowPear

On Saturday, October 20th, the Corcoran Gallery of Art will hold its first Community Art Fair from 10am to 3pm, featuring fine arts and crafts by local artists; workshops and demonstrations on papermaking, bookmaking, ceramics, and printmaking; concerts; films; and tours. I will be participating, showing some of the work I have featured on this blog as well as a small number of printed cards of my paintings (for smaller budgets). Admission is free but book donations are encouraged, to benefit Books for America. I hope to see many of you there!

This is one of the new paintings I plan to show.

CakeBerries2Trish

Autumn Equinox

Today is one of the turnings of the year, and between now and the beginning of winter, each day will begin a little later and end a little earlier, until, when the alarm clock goes off, we find ourselves groping for our bedroom slippers in darkness.

But there are some joys to be had during the days of shrinking sunlight: walks in the golden woods, candlelight, hot soup, bread fresh from the oven, and, of course, apples in every imaginable form. Just to look at one is a pleasure. And of course there is autumnal poetry, in which this poignant season abounds.

AppleMapleLeaf

To Autumn

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou mayst rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

‘The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.

‘The spirits of the air live on the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.’
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat;
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.

—William Blake

Summer in the South

Magnolia2

Today is the birthday of writer Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906), a once-upon-a-time resident of Washington, DC, and the child of former slaves. His father had escaped through the Underground Railroad and fled to Canada, returning to fight in a Massachusetts regiment upon the outbreak of the Civil War; his mother, freed by emancipation and on the verge of emigrating to Liberia, instead decided to remain in the U.S. when the war ended. They met and married post-war in Dayton, Ohio, where Paul was born.

Dayton was a 19th century rural-to-urban destination for southern African-Americans, who quickly established churches, schools, newspapers, and small businesses. Paul’s mother, sure that he showed promise, enrolled herself in night classes (during the day she worked as a cook and laundress) in order to be able to teach her son to read. She encouraged his early interest in writing, and he produced his first poems at age six and began reciting them publicly at nine. In 1887, Ohio abolished racial segregation in the school system (although extracurricular activities like plays and dances remained segregated), and Paul attended local schools as the only African-American student, serving as high school class president and writer and editor for the school paper.

Despite his excellent school record and his having had several pieces of work published in local newspapers, Dunbar found it impossible as an African-American to find either employment in journalism or funds for college. Instead he began working as an elevator operator in the Callahan Building, a seven-story “skyscraper” in downtown Dayton, writing in his spare time. A former teacher’s recommendation acquired him a place reciting his poetry at a convention in Dayton of the Western Association of Writers, and his writing and beautiful voice so impressed the listeners that a nationally distributed write-up of the event brought Dunbar broader attention.

His old school friend Orville Wright, who had dropped out of high school to start a small printing company—having built a press with his brother Wilbur (this in their pre-flight days)—helped Dunbar to self-publish a collection of his poems. Dunbar sold these to his elevator passengers for a dollar apiece, probably hoping that as many as possible would ride all the way to the seventh floor (“While you’re riding with me today, might I interest you in some poetry?”) and eventually recouped his investment. Lucky the buyer with the presence of mind to hang onto that first edition.

Travel and exposure brought Dunbar contacts and supporters, some of them fellow writers. On a visit to Chicago to write about the 1892 Columbian Exhibition, Dunbar met and was befriended by Frederick Douglass. With the patronage of a superintendent of the Toledo State Hospital, Dunbar went on to publish further collections of his work, which were also well-received. Dunbar wrote his poetry both in standard English and in southern dialect, which he had learned through stories from his mother’s Kentucky childhood; the use of dialect in his work has suggested comparisons with Mark Twain.

His growing reputation led to a series of recitals around the U.S. and eventually a six-month recital tour in England, where he also collaborated on theatrical and choral pieces and an operetta. When he returned, it was to Washington, DC and a position at the Library of Congress, meanwhile writing in his free time a collection of short stories and his first novel. The work at the Library was less rewarding than he had hoped, and a whole lot dustier, exacerbating his developing tuberculosis, and with his wife’s encouragement he returned to writing and reciting full-time.

The subject matter for Dunbar’s fiction was drawn from life in black America, and, despite its somber themes, tended to optimistic conclusions. Later criticized for somewhat stereotypical characterizations and a tendency to sentimentality, his writing was unusual in its exploration of the difficulties of African-Americans, both pre- and post-Civil War. In this respect, and particularly in his work in dialect, he influenced later writers of the Harlem Renaissance.

Sadly, Dunbar succumbed to tuberculosis in 1906. During his short life he produced nearly two dozen books: collections of poetry and short stories, novels, and other works. Nevertheless, one can’t help wondering what direction his writing would have taken had he been able to live beyond the age of thirty-three.

Here is one of his poems, “Summer in the South,” and a recently-completed painting to accompany it.

To see where Paul Laurence Dunbar lived and worked in the nation’s capital, you can consult the illustrated Literary Map of Washington, DC.

The oriole sings in the greening grove
As if he were half-way waiting,
The rosebuds peep from their hoods of green,
Timid and hesitating.
The rain comes down in a torrent sweep
And the nights smell warm and piney,
The garden thrives, but the tender shoots
Are yellow-green and tiny.
Then a flash of sun on a waiting hill,
Streams laugh that erst were quiet,
The sky smiles down with a dazzling blue
And the woods run mad with riot.

—Paul Laurence Dunbar

CakePink2Agnès