Wednesday 12 May 2021

'He became a land'

 The Barn Owl above was painted by Edward Lear, who was born on this day in 1812, the 20th of 21 children (and the youngest to survive). As well as being a brilliant painter of birds – especially parrots, which seemed to have a special appeal to him – Lear was also an accomplished landscapist, a musician and composer, and of course an author, most famously of the great nonsense poems.  
Nothing better captures the essence of this strange, troubled man than Auden's brilliant biographical sonnet – 

Left by his friend to breakfast alone on the white
Italian shore, his Terrible Demon arose
Over his shoulder; he wept to himself in the night,
A dirty landscape-painter who hated his nose.

The legions of cruel inquisitive They
Were so many and big like dogs: he was upset
By Germans and boats; affection was miles away:
But guided by tears he successfully reached his Regret.

How prodigious the welcome was. Flowers took his hat
And bore him off to introduce him to the tongs;
The demon's false nose made the table laugh; a cat

Soon had him waltzing madly, let him squeeze her hand;
Words pushed him to the piano to sing comic songs;
And children swarmed to him like settlers. He became a land.

No comments:

Post a Comment