A couple of years ago, while perusing Peter Ackroyd's fascinating Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination (NY: Anchor, 2002), I came across some references to a 19th-century English painter of whom I had never before heard--Samuel Palmer. While the only reproduction of one of Palmer's paintings in that book--'A Hilly Scene'--was certainly intriguing, it was also too small to be very satisfying. Fast forward to last summer, and I finally got around to looking the guy up online. There I found a painting I like even better. It's called 'Coming from Evening Church', and I have posted it to the right.
Even better, I also found a modern poem written about the painting here. It's by Moniza Alvi, a tutor at the Poetry School in London, and a 2002 winner of the Cholmondeley Award.
Coming from Evening Church
after Samuel Palmer, 1830
Suppose we did walk straight out of a stained-glass window,
through the churchyard and up the slope,
an endless gilded procession,
framed by the overarching trees.
Roof, hilltop, spire, a series of echoes.
Leaves printed on the moon
like patterns on a lamp.
We'd be purposeful,
held in the flaring lap of the earth.
Bearded like prophets, tall as saints,
we'd descend to the homesteads,
the ivy as real as we could want it.
And with our children and flowers
we'd keep on walking
in exceptional brilliance,
in the glass certainty of the world.