The Butterfly, Robert A. Sieczkiewicz
Tender butterfly lights from place to place,
Seeking a natural beauty of grace,
Fluttering excitement seeing thy face,
Choosing thou radiant heart to embrace.
Give care when handling this tender creature,
For thou has the power to enrapture,
As would any Beethoven overture,
Mesmerize and make easy its capture.
Although shy will be always at your call.
No wish be denied, whether big or small.
Thy must decide for winter will not stall.
If answer nay will fly with others all.
Helena of such beauty be my wife,
For no other can fill my empty life.
Winslow Homer painted this oil sketch in 1872. By its content it is obvious that his feelings for Helena de Kay was more than a passing fancy. Two items in the painting that where focused on when I wrote this poem. Here we seen the fan is spread telling us that the painting is about love. The other item is the butterfly which is lighting on her. You can image the thoughts running through her head. The butterfly is Homer’s heart. He wants to give his heart to her, but the big question will she take it? She doesn’t of course because history tells us he never married, becoming an antisocial recluse.
The second stanza was developed based on one of Winslow’s letters to Helena. Another point of interest is there have been those who believe that Helena’s mother was instrumental in Winslow not winning the heart of Helena.
Homer did another painting after The Butterfly, titled Summer Afternoon. I call your attention to the fan. It now closed and hanging from her wrist. This is the white flag of surrender. With outstretched arms is probably symbolic that she is free to fly where ever she would like to be. She did, flying into the arms of Richard Watson Gilder.
The Trysting Place, Robert A. Sieczkiewicz
Why must thee make my impatient heart wait?
The chill in the air adds to a longing.
But so late, soon necessary to bate,
It is thy paramour thou art wronging.
Before ‘twas I who was forever late,
Yet reminded made love more engaging.
Once we parted thy burning heart was sate.
Will lengthy waits make thee more enticing?
Tumecent am I awaiting thy touch.
Agony by thy delay is cruel.
Be here now so thy body I may clutch.
If thou loveth do not my heart befool.
Love is cruel to a heart so tender,
Thy solemn oath of heart must thee render.
Winslow Homer finished this work in 1875. This is a year after the marriage of Helena de Kay who Homer had more than an affection for. He did not make public comments of his relationship with her. But I wonder if this painting has something to do with that relationship. Was it a matter of Helena was looking for a commitment from Winslow which he did not make for he never married.
The painting is not simply a woman standing idly. The look on her face is pensive. She is looking for something to happen. The fan in its open position signifies love. The title tells us that she is in a place where she would rendezvous with her lover. But where is he? She is nervous about her situation. This is evidenced by her hand toying with the string on her fan. This is all speculation of course but there is more evidence in another painting of Homer’s. Poem on that painting to follow soon.
Study of a Young Woman, Robert A. Sieczkiewicz
Worry is in my heart, thee I love for.
Thinness of thy smile, trouble is too deep.
Is for me to assure, thy heart too soar.
To set thy course, nev’r again to weep.
Thy heart pure, not totally innocent,
But my heart, will be thy custodian.
Time shall show, that thy will have no lament.
And thy heart, no longer obsidian.
This silken scarf, is given thee to wear.
To protect from all, who do to thee harm.
Solely by its feel, you know I am near.
Danger to thy heart, shall quickly disarm.
This scarf is my love, that shall protect thee,
Near or far, no matter where I may be.
Johannes Vermeer finished this painting in 1667. It is what is referred to a tronie painting or a study of the face common to Dutch painters of the 16th and 17th century. Not meant to be a portrait, but an artist working on a particular technique. Two components in this painting that caught my attention is how Vermeer isolated the young woman’s face using a dark hair bandanna. The other is the scarf. It is not soft and supple as one might expect.
The scarf is more than a piece of clothing to keep the chill off your shoulders but a security blanket. It provides comfort to the wearer. In the poem I use the scarf as a symbol of love and protection. The speaker loves the young woman but you will have to think of what that love means.
The Broken Pitcher, Robert A. Sieczkiewicz
It is a simple life, but a good life,
Filled with very tedious work, yet pure.
To grow to adulthood, to be a wife,
But b’ware of gentleman stranger’s allure.
From the city he came with his broad smile,
A cheerful gaze to me made my heart rush.
My prince had come there was no denial,
A weakened heart he could see in my blush.
On his pedestal did tell a weak’n heart.
His touch to my aching lips I did swoon.
Heart versus mind a warning not to start.
But heart won, gave myself under the moon.
Here patiently await for his return,
Surely his child would be of his concern.
La Cruche Cassée (The Broken Pitcher) was painted by William-Adolphe Bouguereau in 1891. An examination of the symbolism used by Bouguereau finds the use of the pitcher a stage of sexual activity. In the current painting the young lady has lost her virginity as symbolized by the cracked pitcher. A pitcher in a painting but not being touched by a young lady means she is a virgin. Should she be drinking or pouring from a pitcher she is sexually active.
The reason why I wrote this poem was not because of the symbolism but the reality of that time where young women who were not part of the bourgeoisie were target for exploitation. Those living in the outlying villages of the cities were prime targets. This was not something new of course. It had been part of the tawdry morality in Europe for centuries. Having four granddaughters you can imagine the feelings that I have on this subject. Even when my sons were getting to that frisky period in their lives I never asked that they abstain from sexual activity but made the point of respect.
Impression Sunrise, Robert A. Sieczkiewicz
Appearing static the sun sends its heat,
To the pulsing waters beneath the boat,
While afar stacks bellow a constant beat.
In this place how easy it is to dote.
Cranes querulously chatter on the wharf.
Various tongues seeking to trade their wares,
Even unloading crates from Dusseldorf,
When two years ago there were other cares.
War is a godless monster to all who,
Fight whatever the cause may claim to be.
Guns now silent, merchants once again woo,
Customers from every part of the sea.
Only death can provide eternal peace,
Until we find a way for war to cease.
Monet was making a political statement with this painting which he did in 1872. Franco-Prussian War that ended in 1871 was a military set back for France which declared war on Prussia. France’s concern was the balance of power in Europe and that the unification of German states would make them too powerful. It will not be long before World War I will put these combatants on opposite sides once again.
In the painting Monet is attempting to show the strength of France. Those are not trees in the painting, but smoke stacks. To the right of the painting are derricks as a symbol of commerce. The setting for the painting was le Havre a major port city in the Normandy region of France.
The Potato Eaters, Robert A. Sieczkiewicz
Twas early morning leaving the city.
Velvet fog scurried from my horse’s hoof,
Which soon pulled up lame. Oh such a pity.
Nearby I did see a house with thatched roof.
Approaching I did hear a rhythmic sound.
A man with hoe worked meticulously,
Moving the dark rich soil to the green mound.
Sound stopped. He looked at me curiously.
Are you sorely in need he asked of me?
It is my ailing horse was my reply.
Come rest, eat hardy with us, have some tea,
Said de Groot as if an old friend came by.
Never have I ev’r realized before,
There can be inner peace even when poor.
To Vincent Van Gogh, The Potato Eaters was his best work. The painting was completed in 1885 and was not well received. His choice of palette for this painting was based on the colors of unwashed potatoes.
Van Gogh was showing that even poor their was value to their lives. It was through their efforts that the food was put on the table. They were not beggars or families on the dole. Even though he had deep feelings for these people he did not incorporate them with the civilized populations.
This is the home of the de Groots who are captured in The Potato Eaters. This thatched roof house is shared by two families.
The Music Lesson, Robert A. Sieczkiewicz
Your soft fingers move over ivory.
With cello in hands I pluck at the strings.
Music is quite unsatisfactory,
Thinking of very pleasurable things.
Your delicate bouquet is mesmeric.
Is difficult for me to keep away.
Every thought about you is euphoric.
No endeavor can hold my heart at bay.
Your eyes of blue, deeper than the ocean,
Have become distract’d by activity.
Be assured was an intended motion,
To terminate our painful chastity.
Your love to be shackled until we wed?
Or love to be fulfilled within our bed?
Johannes Vermeer, worked on The Music Lesson for three years, finishing it in 1665. I make the point that it took him three years to complete the work to stress what a perfectionist he was. There are studies available on the Internet on the vanishing point in his painting. If you enter Vermeer vanishing point you will get a wealth of information. The key is the camera obscura. In the case of The Music Lesson, the vanishing point is on the young ladies left elbow, meaning the center of the lens in the camera obscura was aligned with her elbow.
Many of Vermeer’s painting are filled with symbolism. Such is the case in The Music Lesson. They enabled me to write the poem. First the white pitcher. It tells the viewer that the young lady is a virgin. Second. The violincello is a phallus symbol. Next to the vacant chair I assume that the gentleman standing next to the virginals (a form of a harpsichord) was sitting in. Without looking at the mirror you would think that the young lady is looking at the keyboard. She isn’t, she is looking at the gentleman. So it appears we have an amorous relationship present.