G.F. Watts - Hope
I found this letter at the Caledonian Market in London, hidden inside a book of maps (!) entitled Eastern Countries. The letter was written by the painter George Fredric Watts, and the recipient was probably Edward Burne-Jones.
September 20, 1886
I sit by the hearth here at Compton House.
I glance at my dog.
Kerberos is not happy…nor is he sad.
Those black eyes will never fool me,
but he ponders…God knows what.
Once Kerby sat in cool halls
…he heard Epicurus speak…
He bayed when Praxiteles embraced his lovely Phryne.
Listened to Dante’s pen as it scraped against the
Followed Titian’s timeworn shadow, as it passed through
Nothing has changed.
No age can claim Kerby.
He is timeless.
Does he heed my call?
Well, why not?
Just a bit of fun…in eternity.
Back in the happy days of my youth,
I ran into the woods and shouted:
Be happy…yes, you!
You live in the best of times and in the best of lands
…our pleasant England.
Hello out there! I know you’re enjoying yourselves in these woods.
They were timeless.
Here I stand in this most miserable of times,
the time of thieves.
Contemporary man. Those who generated this
hate toward Ethos.
These peculiar beings…half animal…half angel.
They have forgotten the animal…forgotten the angel…
Forgotten eternity itself.
With me, it’s strange.
When I feel the light beating of ‘angel wings’,
hot tears fill my eyes.
That is something…but what?
Now I shall travel…to the cliffs of Dover,
my sketchbook in hand.
Kerby as well.
There I will find beautiful sunsets.
We will sit and look out over the ocean…
but what do we see?
Kerby looks, but takes no notice.
Three blasts of the whistle…
There sails the ferry for Calais.
Two men in flashy sports clothes.
They chatter of documents and numbers.
The landscape changes…
a gaudy veil is pulled over my eyes,
and the view transforms to a weary tourism poster…
I look at Kerby…
he sits, unruffled.
He takes no notice of the voices, just as he took no notice of Epicurus’ speech.
He disregards the ferry, just as he disregarded Dante’s ‘Purgatorio’.
Eternity gazes through him…
while Buddha grins his Buddha grin.
Do you agree, Edward?
To capture eternity – this is what is so difficult.
I have completed ‘Hope’…I think!