Saturday, November 12, 2005


Samuel Palmer, A Barn with a Mossy Roof, Shoreham
Painter Samuel Palmer (1805-1881):
I believe in my very heart . . . that all the very finest original pictures and topping things in nature have a certain quaintness by which they partially affect us—not the quaintness of bungling—the queer doing of a common thought—but a curiousness in their beauty—a salt on their tails by which the imagination catches hold on them while the sublime eagles and big birds of the French academy fly up far beyond the sphere of our affections—one of the very deepest sayings I have met with in Lord Bacon seems to me to be ‘There is no excellent beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.’
Palmer on Blake:
In him you saw at once the Maker, the Inventor; one of the few in any age: a fitting companion for Dante. He was energy itself, and shed around him a kindling influence; an atmosphere of life, full of the ideal. To walk with him in the country was to perceive the soul of beauty through the forms of matter . . . He was a man without a mask; his aim single, his path straightforwards, and his wants few; so he was free, noble, and happy . . . one of the few . . . who are not in some way or other ‘double-minded’ and inconsistent with themselves; one of the very few who cannot be depressed by neglect . . .
On integrity:
If we merely ask ourselves ‘What will people say of us?’ we are rotten at the core.
Irony: after Palmer’s death, the painter’s youngest son A. H.—lesson of integrity apparently unlearn’d—in 1909—burnt—in ’s words: “a great quantity of . . . father’s handiwork—handiwork which he himself valued more than that work which the public could understand. Knowing that no one would be able to make head or tail of what I burnt; I wished to save it from a more humiliating fate . . .” The conflagration included sketchbooks, notebooks, and original works, and “lasted for days.”

Samuel Palmer, In a Shoreham Garden, (1829)
Palmer on Blake’s Virgil wood engravings (1821):
“visions of little dells, and nooks, and corners of Paradise; models of the exquisitest pitch of intense poetry . . . intense depth, solemnity, and vivid brilliancy . . . a mystic and dreamy glimmer as penetrates and kindles the inmost soul, and gives complete and unreserved delight, unlike the gaudy daylight of this world. They are . . . the drawing aside of the fleshly curtain . . .
Palmer’s insistence that the materiality of the natural world (“nature . . . sprinkled and showered with a thousand pretty eyes and buds and spires and blossoms, gemm’d with dew, and . . . clad in living green”) manifests the divine (the “thousand repetitions of little forms, which are part of its own generic perfection.”) See Blake: “it is in Particulars that Wisdom consists & Happiness too.” See Ronald Johnson.

Sophie Brzeska by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (1913)
Scoop’d up a copy of H. S. Ede’s Savage Messiah,—chock full of letters between Pound sculptor Henri Gaudier and Sophie Brzeska. It’s what looks like the 1971 edition (no doubt released against plausible winnings due to the contemporaneous Ken Russell film, a scandalously romantickal revery, in all ways perfect if one were nineteen and in love that year—or thereabouts—see the chance meeting in the British Museum reading room, the loud studio under the train tracks, the thief’d cemetery (tombstone) marble and the all-night industry to sculpt a smooth shallow torso for a collector-fop . . .) Publish’d by Outerbridge & Lazard, a curiosity. The other copy I own I fetch’d one glum Sunday over the old mountains of Appalachia, ferret’d out of a big barn full of Mennonites, sun-bonnet’d ones, somewhere shy of Harrisonburg, and publish’d by something like the Literary Guild. (Bibliographical contusions—and memory contusions—abound here.) I like the “Note to Readers,” to my knowledge, only Vladimir Mayakovsky outfit’d himself with a better slew of diminutives:
Henri Gaudier refers to himself in the correspondence (and is referred to) by the following nicknames: Pickna-Zosienka, Pik, Piknis, Pikus, Pikusurinia, and Pipik. The derivation of this name is obscure. Sophie Brzeska is referred to in the correspondence under the following array of nicknames: Madka, Maman, Mamuiska, Mamus, Mamusienica, Mamusin, Manuska, Matka, Matuelenka, Matuska, Sik, Sisik, Smarkoisowi, Zosienka, Zosienkosu, Zosik, Zosikmaly, Zosisik, Zosiskoiv, Zosiulenko, Zosiulo, Zosiumo, and Zosiuno . . .
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska