Monday, December 10, 2007

The Sower, 1850
Jean-François Millet
oil on canvas
40" x 32 1/2"
Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
The Sower
Written after seeing Millet´s painting of this title
Soon will the lonesome cricket by the stone
Begin to hush the night; and lightly blown
Field fragrances will fill the fading blue --
Old furrow-scents that ancient Eden knew.
Soon in the upper twilight will be heard
The winging whisper of a homing bird.
Who is it coming on the slant brown slope,
Touched by the twilight and her mournful hope --
Coming with hero step, with rhythmic swing,
Where all the bodily motions weave and sing?
The grief of the ground is in him, yet the power
Of Earth to hide the furrow with the flower.
He is the stone rejected, yet the stone
Whereon is built metropolis and throne.
Out of his toil come all their pompous shows,
Their purple luxury and plush repose!
The grime of this bruised hand keeps tender white
The hands that never labor, day nor night.
His feet that know only the field's rough floors
Send lordly steps down echoing corridors.
Yea, this vicarious toiler at the plow
Gives that fine pallor to my lady's brow
And idle armies with their boom and blare.
Flinging their foolish glory on the air --
He hides their nakedness, he gives them bed.
And by his alms their hungry mouths are fed.
Not his lurching of an aimless clod.
For with the august gesture of a god --
A gesture that is question and command --
He hurls the bread of nations from his hand;
And in the passion of the gesture flings
His fierce resentment in the face of kings.
This is the Earth-god of the latter day.
Treading with solemn joy the upward way;
A lusty god that in some crowning hour
Will hurl Grey Privilege from the place of power.
These are the inevitable steps that make
Unreason tremble and Tradition shake.
This is the World-Will climbing to its goal,
Democracy whose sure insurgent stride
Jars kingdoms to their ultimate stone of pride.
Edwin Markham, (1852-1940)
Lincoln and Other Poems
New York, 1913, Doubleday.
For more information on the painting:

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