Sunday, July 04, 2010

A Farm Picture

In a post a few years ago I reprinted a short poem by Coleridge, written in 1828, of which Richard Holmes said 'this fragment of Dutch landscape is an almost perfect imagist poem'.  In an article in the New York Review (24 June), Christopher Benfey quotes Robert Hass, editor of a Walt Whitman collection, describing some of Whitman's poems as anticipating 'the imagist procedures of the young modernists who came a half century later.'  These very short poems, 'those "brilliant and surprising experiments" in which, in three or four lines, Whitman composes a snapshot view', include 'The Runner', 'A Paumonok Picture' and 'Cavalry Crossing a Ford'.  One of them is, in effect, a three line landscape painting, 'A Farm Picture' (1865):

THROUGH the ample open door of the peaceful country barn,
A sun-lit pasture field, with cattle and horses feeding;
And haze, and vista, and the far horizon, fading away

Benfey says that Whitman 'loved art galleries and one can imagine him trying, in such poems, to capture some of the effects of the painters of his time, such as the "haze and vista" of the landscape paintings of Martin Johnson Heade...'  Heade, one of those American artists subsequently described as luminists for their interest in light effects, began painting landscapes in the early 1860s and became best known for his salt marsh paintings.  He is also one of the four cultural figures examined in Christopher Benfey's recent book A Summer of Hummingbirds: Love, Art, and Scandal in the Intersecting Worlds of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe & Martin Johnson Heade.

Martin Johnson Heade, Newburyport Meadows, c1872-8
Source: Artchive


Barbara said...

I love M J Heade's work! But how do you pronounce his name?

Is it Head—as what sits on one's shoulders?

Or Heed—as in Heed my words?


Plinius said...

I think it's Heed, but I'm often wrong on these things...