The Progress Of Art.

A poem by Thomas Hood

Oh happy time! - Art's early days!
When o'er each deed, with sweet self-praise,
Narcissus-like I hung!
When great Rembrandt but little seemed,
And such Old Masters all were deemed
As nothing to the young!

Some scratchy strokes - abrupt and few,
So easily and swift I drew,
Sufficed for my design;
My sketchy, superficial hand
Drew solids at a dash - and spanned
A surface with a line.

Not long my eye was thus content,
But grew more critical - my bent
Essayed a higher walk;
I copied leaden eyes in lead -
Rheumatic hands in white and red,
And gouty feet - in chalk.

Anon my studious art for days
Kept making faces - happy phrase,
For faces such as mine!
Accomplished in the details then,
I left the minor parts of men,
And drew the form divine.

Old Gods and Heroes - Trojan - Greek,
Figures - long after the antique,
Great Ajax justly feared;
Hectors, of whom at night I dreamt,
And Nestor, fringed enough to tempt
Bird-nesters to his beard.

A Bacchus, leering on a bowl,
A Pallas that out-stared her owl,
A Vulcan - very lame;
A Dian stuck about with stars,
With my right hand I murdered Mars -
(One Williams did the same).

But tired of this dry work at last,
Crayon and chalk aside I cast,
And gave my brush a drink!
Dipping - "as when a painter dips
In gloom of earthquake and eclipse," -
That is - in Indian ink.

Oh then, what black Mont Blancs arose,
Crested with soot, and not with snows:
What clouds of dingy hue!
In spite of what the bard has penned,
I fear the distance did not "lend
Enchantment to the view."

Not Radcliffe's brush did e'er design
Black Forests half so black as mine,
Or lakes so like a pall;
The Chinese cake dispersed a ray
Of darkness, like the light of Day
And Martin over all.

Yet urchin pride sustained me still,
I gazed on all with right good will,
And spread the dingy tint;
"No holy Luke helped me to paint,
The devil surely, not a Saint,
Had any finger in't!"

But colors came! - like morning light,
With gorgeous hues, displacing night,
Or Spring's enlivened scene:
At once the sable shades withdrew;
My skies got very, very blue;
My trees extremely green.

And washed by my cosmetic brush,
How Beauty's cheek began to blush;
With lock of auburn stain -
(Not Goldsmith's Auburn) - nut-brown hair,
That made her loveliest of the fair;
Not "loveliest of the plain!"

Her lips were of vermilion hue:
Love in her eyes, and Prussian blue,
Set all my heart in flame!
A young Pygmalion, I adored
The maids I made - but time was stored
With evil - and it came!

Perspective dawned - and soon I saw
My houses stand against its law;
And "keeping" all unkept!
My beauties were no longer things
For love and fond imaginings;
But horrors to be wept!

Ah! why did knowledge ope my eyes?
Why did I get more artist wise?
It only serves to hint,
What grave defects and wants are mine;
That I'm no Hilton in design -
In nature no De Wint!

Thrice happy time! - Art's early days!
When o'er each deed, with sweet self-praise,
Narcissus-like I hung!
When great Rembrandt but little seemed,
And such Old Masters all were deemed
As nothing to the young!

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'The Progress Of Art.' by Thomas Hood

comments powered by Disqus

Home | Search | About this website | Contact | Privacy Policy