31 August 2018

Labour Day

Jean-François Millet, quoted in Alfred Sensier, La vie et l'oeuvre de J.-F. Millet  (Paris: A. Quantin, 1881), p.  130 (my translation):
Sometimes in the fields, although the land is poorly suited to cultivation, you see figures hoeing and digging. Once in a while one of them stands up, "straightens his kidneys" as they say, and wipes his brow with the back of his hand. "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread."

Is this the jolly, frolicking work that certain people want us to believe in? Nevertheless it is here that, for me, true humanity and great poetry are found.

Jean-François Millet, L'homme à la houe (c. 1860)

30 August 2018

An Instrument of Retributive Justice

Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden (Cambridge, MA: The Riverside Press, 1898), p. 37:
The weeds ... have hateful moral qualities. To cut down a weed is, therefore, to do a moral action. I feel as if I were destroying sin. My hoe becomes an instrument of retributive justice. I am an apostle of Nature. This view of the matter lends a dignity to the art of hoeing which nothing else does, and lifts it into the region of ethics. Hoeing becomes, not a pastime, but a duty. And you get to regard it so, as the days and the weeds lengthen. 
Hat tip: The South Roane Agrarian

27 August 2018

Incurable Uneasiness

Eugène Fromentin, The Old Masters of Belgium and Holland, tr. Mary Robbins (Cambridge, MA: The Riverside Press, 1882), p. 177:
We might say that for a long time the art of painting has been a lost secret, and that the last masters of great experience who practised it took the key away with them. We need it, we ask for it, no one has it any longer; we look for it and it cannot be found. The result is that the individualism in method is nothing more, really, than the effort of each to imagine what he has not learned; that in certain skillful practice we can see the laboured efforts and expediences of a mind in difficulty; and that nearly all the so-called originality of modern practices covers incurable uneasiness.
Hat tip: Louis Anquetin (1861-1932), who uses this quote from Fromentin in the conclusion of Rubens, sa technique: analyse des tableaux de la Galerie de Médicis au Louvre (Paris: Éditions Nilsson, 1924), at p. 129.

20 August 2018

18 August 2018

Monuments

Joseph Joubert, Some of the Thoughts of Joseph Joubert, tr. George H. Calvert (Boston: William V. Spencer, 1867), p. 102:
Monuments are the grappling-irons that bind one generation to another. Preserve what your fathers have seen.
The original, from Joubert's Pensées, Vol. II (Paris: Didier et Cie., 1862), p. 166:
Les monuments sont les crampons qui unissent une génération à une autre. Conservez ce qu'ont vu vos pères.

17 August 2018

May Your Mouths Be Frozen up Tight

Willibrord Verkade, Yesterdays of an Artist-Monk, tr. John Stoddard (New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1930), pp. 272-273:
I had to listen to the uncouth, coarse chatter of some good Holland bourgeois [while on the train]. Their conversation, which was carried on in extremely boisterous tones, appeared to me horribly vulgar. Speaking a foreign language has the advantage of making one strive to find the right expression, instead of breaking out in all sorts of old commonplace phrases. Moreover, stupidities never sound so foolish in any language as in one’s own. During that half-hour I actually suffered. At last the train came to a halt. I was in Haarlem. “Good-bye, gentlemen, much pleasure!” exclaimed a passenger who got out of the train with me. “Yes, yes, much pleasure,” I murmured sarcastically, “it has been charming. The next time may your mouths be frozen up tight.”

15 August 2018

A Yellow, Talkative Serpent

Charles Baudelaire, "L'Avertisseur," The Flowers of Evil, tr. Edna St. Vincent Millay (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1936):
No man that's worthy of the name
But in his helpless heart alive
Harbors a yellow, talkative
Serpent, he cannot hush nor tame.

Gaze if you like into the eyes
Of dryads... Just before you drown,
The Fang says, "You've a date in town."

Beget your children, plant your trees,
Chisel your marble, build your song...
The Fang says, "Well, — it's not for long."

Hope — if you're hopeful — or despair;
Nothing's to hinder you; but hark! —
Always the hissing head is there,
The insupportable remark.

Lord Leighton, An Athlete Wrestling with a Python (1877)

Tout homme digne de ce nom
A dans le coeur un Serpent jaune,
Installé comme sur un trône,
Qui, s'il dit: «Je veux,» répond: «Non!»

Plonge tes yeux dans les yeux fixes
Des Satyresses ou des Nixes,
La Dent dit: «Pense à ton devoir!»

Fais des enfants, plante des arbres,
Polis des vers, sculpte des marbres,
La Dent dit: «Vivras-tu ce soir?»

Quoi qu'il ébauche ou qu'il espère,
L'homme ne vit pas un moment
Sans subir l'avertissement
De l'insupportable Vipère.

13 August 2018

Philip Surrey

Philip Surrey (1910-1990), quoted on the National Gallery of Canada web site:
Each individual is alone, cut off. Each wonders how others cope with life. A work of art is a particularly complex statement, valuable because it is packed with meaning... like icebergs, four-fifths of our personalities lie below the surface; of the fifth that shows, only part can be expressed in conversation. The only effective outlet for all deeper feelings and thoughts is art.
Philip Surrey, The French Novel  (1944)
(Art Gallery of Alberta)

9 August 2018

Why Be Ashamed?

Epictetus, Discourses, Book III, Chapter XXVI, tr. George Long (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1904), p. 288:
Is that shameful to you which is not your own act, that of which you are not the cause, that which has come to you by accident, as a headache, as a fever? If your parents were poor, and left their property to others, and if while they live, they do not help you at all, is this shameful to you? Is this what you learned with the philosophers? Did you never hear that the thing which is shameful ought to be blamed, and that which is blamable is worthy of blame? Whom do you blame for an act which is not his own, which he did not do himself? Did you then make your father such as he is, or is it in your power to improve him? Is this power given to you? Well then, ought you to wish the things which are not given to you, or to be ashamed if you do not obtain them? And have you also been accustomed while you were studying philosophy to look to others and to hope for nothing from yourself? Lament then and groan and eat with fear that you may not have food to-morrow. Tremble about your poor slaves lest they steal, lest they run away, lest they die. So live, and continue to live, you who in name only have approached philosophy, and have disgraced its theorems as far as you can by showing them to be useless and unprofitable to those who take them up; you, who have never sought constancy, freedom from perturbation, and from passions; you who have not sought any person for the sake of this object, but many for the sake of syllogisms; you who have never thoroughly examined any of these appearances by yourself, Am I able to bear, or am I not able to bear? What remains for me to do?

Paul Thumann, The Three Fates (late 1800s)
The frontispiece in Appleton's edition of the Discourses

1 August 2018