Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Habitual Peacefulness of Gruchy: Poems after Pictures by Jean-François Millet

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Habitual Peacefulness of Gruchy: Poems after Pictures by Jean-François Millet

Article excerpt

The Habitual Peacefulness of Gruchy: Poems After Pictures by Jean-François Millet. By David Middleton. Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 2005. 67 pp. $16.95 (paper).

In this slim volume, David Middleton gives us the equivalent of a privateshowing of the paintings of Jean-François Millet. Millet, a French artist who lived during the mid to late 1800s, chose to leave Paris to spend most of his artistic life in his native French countryside painting peasants-a revolutionary subject matter in that day. Like an exhibition that respects the power of training and space, Middleton's book gives us one poem per page, complete with the little card telling us when the painting was completed. The formal allows readers a variety of approaches to the poems.

When we enter a page, we see Millet's painting first. Middleton begins each poem with a detailed description of the painting, as in "Return ofthe Flock" (p. 29):

Across the blue horizon that divides

Pale twilight skies from twilight-darkened earth

A shepherd leads beneath a crescent moon

His bending line of pliant moon-eyed sheep.

The description usually continues for two more four-line stanzas, allowing us to peruse the painting at our leisure.

The last stanza, however, is the poet's domain where Middleton explores the possible significations of Millet's art. Sometimes Middleton plays with the Christian overtones present in the paintings or that he has created under the inspiration of Millet's work. For example, he speculates about the artist in "Faggot Gatherers on the Edge of Fontainebleau Forest" (p. 19):

Not as mere subjects for his craft but souls

Bearing the common burdens of this earth

He thought of one whose eyes, when half-repaired

By miracle, had seen men walk like trees.

Other times Middleton articulates more earthy truths. In "Knitting Lesson I" (p. 6), Middleton writes of "women who themselves/Pull wool from sheep to card, then spin and knit/Into the well-made garments of their lives. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.