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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Meditation: The Song of the Lark

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The Song of the Lark, by Jules Adolphe Breton


The Song of the Lark
a meditation on the painting
by Jules Adolphe Breton

At the bottom of the sky
an orange sun
meets the field

arranging
a constellation
with her sickle.

The trees, the house,
silo and barns
bind
her body,

her hands
mown with labor, her feet
like stones in the dirt,

her breasts: fruit
in peeling skins.

Her body
rises

from the ground
ground
ground

And her face
blossoms
in the patulous sky
like the song
song
song

of the lark






Listen to a podcast of this poem here.

I had searched for an audio of a lark, without any satisfying results. Now, after Lorenzo's comment about "The Lark Ascending" by Ralph Vaughan Williams, I am posting a recording of it. I listened to it for the first time today. It is so incredibly beautiful, I just sort of sit speechless, in tears of listening. Please give it your rapt attention if you can take the time for all fifteen minutes.




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54 comments:

Maureen said...

"her face / blossoms / in the patulous sky" is lovely. I especially enjoyed your reading of the poem and its echoing effect at the end.

Bonnie said...

How haunting, and how true that even when most weary, our spirits are lifted by the swwet song of a lark. Sometimes that is all we need to keep going.

Thank you, Ruth.

deb colarossi said...

love. love.

and you .

and I need to turn some earth soon, enough inner dirt tilling of late...

Margaret said...

hmm. lovely. And it wouldn't be the same without that orange! ;)

The Solitary Walker said...

What a figure. There is indeed a sense that she is about to levitate, with her straight back and fixed stare, head slightly tilted up, and one foot halfway off the ground.

And what a poem. I like very much the 'hands mown with labor' and the 'fruit in peeling skins', and that word 'patulous', which not only sounds good but has the idea of widening out, as the lark's song fills the whole sky.

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

A magnificent 'reading' of a very beautiful painting. The peasant girl is every bit as riveting in your poem as she was to Breton. Her posture is one of motionlessness; she is not walking, but in rapt attention to the lark's song. The only motion is the sinking sun and the rising lark, a bare squiggly trace in the sky, but one linked to the women's open mouth. Is she singing?

This painting and poem so remind me of Vaughan Williams's beautiful "The Lark Ascending". Have you ever heard it? Apparently, Willa Cather got the title of her novel about an opera singer from this painting.

Terresa said...

Ruth, I just may close all the books in my hands now, this poem is the most divine thing I will read all day.

Divine
divine

(and this:

tears
tears



...such ripe and falling beauty in this.)

Jill said...

Song of the Lark: also a lovely Willa Cather novel. There must be magic in those words.

Carmen Troncoso said...

Que maravilla, al leerlo siento que mi espiritu se ensancha!

The Bug said...

Lovely - poem and painting both. I'll check out the video link at home tonight. And I learned a new word - patulous! I might even use it in a sentence someday.

Loring Wirbel said...

I love poems that interpret paintings anyway, and this one is exceptional, particularly the chanting repetitions.

who said...

Your poem delivers the same message as the painting, the same message as the music the violin plays.

It is a beautiful poem Ruth, that it is pretty much the message.

Jeanie said...

Oh, Ruth, once again you touch my soul with your words. Is that painting in d'Orsay? I know I have seen it -- there? Chicago? Detroit? Doesn't matter, but oh -- to see it with your words. Really -- they should just put a speaker next to it...

Arti said...

This is so beautiful, Ruth, your poem, the music of Ralph Vaughn Williams, and the image and spirit of the skylark. I've appreciated Lorenzo's comment, pointing to the Willa Cather's book cover. I knew I've seen this painting somewhere before. Just FYI, a post I found... The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather, and can be downloaded free:
http://girlebooks.com/blog/free-ebooks/the-song-of-the-lark-by-willa-cather/

Amy @ Soul Dipper said...

Just so exquisite, Ruth. Thank you for bringing such beauty into one tiny place of contemplation and grace.

Ruth said...

Maureen, thank you, my poet friend.

Ruth said...

Bonnie, your perceptiveness never ever stops amazing me. I was going to write something about accumulation . . . of so many things, but this came, this painting (on a postcard from the Art Institute in Chicago, a bookmark in a Rilke book), and it was just what I needed. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Deb, yes, love love love, and you you you.

I know what you mean about getting back in the dirt. We have a big and ever growing pile of seed catalogs . . . Happiness!

Ruth said...

Margaret, it is such a focal point, that setting sun, isn't it? What glorious color in that earth-colored land- and bodyscape, and at just the right spot in the composition to "reflect" up into the sky and her face, even though it's behind her, and her dun-colored skin is in shadow (or is it soil?).

Ruth said...

Robert, this young woman in this painting make me levitate! Breton, from the very upper tip of France, gave his attentions to these field laborers so lovingly, especially at the end of the work day when they must have been very weary, but so happy to be done. What a moment! The warmth of the setting sun, the day's work finished. He really moves me.

I am happy you like the poem and those words and phrases. I do love that word patulous for its sound and meaning too. Thank you so much.

Ruth said...

I meant that there are other paintings too, such as "End of the Working Day."

Ruth said...

Lorenzo, I have to confess to you that I did not see this painting in the Art Institute in Chicago in December. We didn't venture into the area of European paintings this time. But when I was collecting postcards in the gift shop, Breton's orange setting sun in the field of dun and simple, striking beauty of the peasant woman jumped off the rack. I think I picked up half a dozen of this painting alone. Can you guess where I will head first thing next visit?

What I couldn't understand during this meditation was where was the lark? It couldn't be the one in the sky to the left of her (and there are a few more to the right of her flying off to the right), since birds don't sing while they fly!? But they do, if they are larks, as it turns out. It is that squiggle-bird she listens to, arrested in her walk home from the field. How I love that.

And how I love this piece of music, which transported me more times than I could count yesterday. Maybe it just played all day, I'm not sure. I'm so grateful for the introduction, and for how you trio-ed it with this painting and my poem.

Ruth said...

Terresa,

thank
you

thank
you

. . .

poet
friend

Ruth said...

Jill, yes, I just learned this yesterday, from you and others here. An opera singer, Cather's lark. It is a beautiful phrase, is it not?

Oliag said...

Oh Ruth! I am so uplifted here today. I just not only listened to you speak this painting in words but then read the comments while listening to Mr Williams' "Song.." and now my mind is mellowed and I have only beautiful thoughts.

The painting is beautiful
Your poem is beautiful
The music is beautiful

Yes I am in a peaceful state of mind....

I am going to download that music today!

ds said...

No time to listen to the Vaughn Williams, so will be back. Another so-beautiful poem, Ruth. Thank you.

I read The Song of the Lark & thought of Cather with painting & title, but never knew her story's origins...(thanks, Lorenzo!)

Dutchbaby said...

Fabulous pairing of poem and painting. Your words sang like the lark and guided my eyes across the painting.

Ruth said...

Bienvenida al blog, Carmen. Ni leo, ni hablo ni escribo el español, pero le pedido a un amigo que me ayude a traducir esto. Muchas gracias por el precioso comentario, que también refleja lo que sentía yo después de meditar sobre la alondra y la joven de la pintura.

Vagabonde said...

I am reading the ten posts you wrote while I was away. You asked in January if I had taken US citizenship. Yes I did in 1985. I waited until the French Government, which allowed men to have dual citizenship, to give the same rights to women as I did not want to give up being French. On your post on the color blue – I was surrounded by blueness in Hawaii. One of the collages on my latest post has surfers surrounded by blue water. On your post Stormy of 3 Feb – on 2nd February we celebrated my husband’s birthday in the middle of the Pacific. The weather was nice but the see was choppy. It was a formal night and he looked great in his tuxedo – snow was far from our mind. Your post of Feb 6 on the chair recovering – what a stunning chair! You did a great job. I have one like that, a rocking chair actually, that I bought at a plantation estate sale years ago – I should do something about it when I move all the books from it….

Vagabonde said...

Your Feb 8 post with a video of Miles Davis and John Coltrane – I saw John Coltrane live in San Francisco in 1965. Another couple who saw him then has established a church called the St John Coltrane African Orthodox Church on Fillmore, in SF. – That Chrysler ad imported from Detroit is powerful. I had not seen it. Your post of Feb 15 on NY Fashion week – I loved this post – so many gorgeous models and dresses, and paintings too. While in LA I visited one of my blogging friends – she had met Picasso and his wife Jacqueline while in France (I’ll write a post on this visit with her.) I love fashion as I was brought up with it with my mother who had worked at the House of Worth. The Song of the Lark was a great end to my visit on your blog. My comments are long this time but I owe you since you have been so nice in writing many long comments on my blog in the past.

rauf said...

the painting so full of life, the music so haunting Ruth, and your beautiful words to go with them. what we need is less than a minute to fill our hearts, we need not remember rest of the 23 hours and 59 minutes of the day

George said...

I loved the painting, Ruth, wondering all the time if your were relating to this young woman in the field, with her focus, her vision, her determination, the way she seems to have arisen from the core of the earth. And, now that I think about it, it's that earthiness that really resonates with me in your beautiful poem — her body, like yours and mine, rising "from the ground, ground, ground," to which it shall return after the "song, song, song."

It's a little late for me to give my full attention to the Ralph Vaughan Williams piece tonight, but I will return. It looks like quite a treat.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Dana. I'm glad you like that word patulous too. When I hear it spoken, it sounds like patch-you-lous, and there is something about that I also like.

Ruth said...

Loring, thanks so much, my good friend. I wonder if you have written poem meditations on paintings, or music . . .

Ruth said...

Dusti, thanks for that. The music that began to flow from the painting into my heart, out of my fingers, and then through the incredible craft of Vaughan Williams and the violin has been in the air for two days now. I am glad it feels like one piece to you too, very glad.

Ruth said...

Dear Jeanie, thank you, my friend. The painting is in the Art Institute in Chicago. I did not see the painting last visit, but the postcard of it leapt off the rack in the gift shop. I fell in love with it, and it sits next to me on the table by my red chair.

Ruth said...

Arti, thank you so much. So it sounds as though you have read the Cather book of this name. Thank you for the link to it online. I find the title very beautiful and evocative, especially in light of the story in this painting.

Ruth said...

Amy, what a lovely thing to say. Thank you so much.

Ruth said...

Oliag, it warms my heart so much to know you found that peace here in this trio of a meditation. I have been in the flow of it myself for all these hours since posting it.

Susan said...

Beautiful painting! Breton's work reminds me of Jean-Francois Millet, who I love. I was fortunate to be able to attend a special exhibit of his work at the Frick in Pittsburgh when I lived there. The poem you wrote is so expressive of this painting...just wonderful, Ruthie.

I had never heard of Ralph Vaughn Williams, but this piece is just perfect. It makes me think of a beautiful musical score set to a western movie, looking at those wide vistas of mountains and plains meeting.

Thank you for posting this. It brought happiness to me this morning. XOXO

Ruth said...

Thank you, ds. I'm glad you like the poem. I know you will enjoy the piece by Williams, which is the song and flight of the lark, both. And all of us!

Ruth said...

Dutchbaby, thank you. I don't seem to be getting tired of meditating on this painting, which I have done again and again with the soundtrack of Williams.

cathyswatercolors said...

Hi Ruth, thanks for the diversion. The state of labor and politics in the country is really stressful. So worried about our wordls. We have worked so hard and with best intentions to help families and children only to be treated like criminals.... sad:(
Maybe going to Lansing tomorrow for the rally.

cathyswatercolors said...

Oh, i forgot to mention that i love the new header! Spring sooon

who said...

oh my BOB, you did it, the clarion bayonetta, unbeatable royal flush, trifecta from bet on races, and I thought the Pepé Le Pew's hockey career was hackneyed.

It wasn't a typo after after all, it just happened on the other side, those guys with the funny lines over a few letters in their names were right (and here I always thought it was sarcasm) I always asked for clarification how the two ends of a sea bell fit together. It did't matter that I couldn't understand the correlation of the parable. I just smooshed'em together and it clicked.

1+1=2 but with words one plus one equals one, finding the area or the words with literal calculus I can grasp. The answer equals the universe, radiating out in a never ending expanse.

I guess the situation is what the call an anomaly, cause I still don't understand which end they mean when they describe the ends as male and female. I don't observe either ends as showing an emotion at all, they might as well distinguish between to two by calling one end a fish and the other a bicycle.

I just don't get it

as far as you know

Ruth said...

Dear Vagabonde, you have the best stories of anyone I know. From your distant past, and from the past weeks, and ongoing. I love these images of your husband in his black tux, and your mother the seamstress at the House of Worth.

I am greatly looking forward to reading your new posts some while you were away, and at least one since you returned. I promise to write a long comment.

Ruth said...

Thank you, rauf. I was going to write a post about accumulation, and feeling under it. I had a few photos of snow piled up. Then I looked at this painting on my postcard, and that just went away.

Ruth said...

Hello, George, it's so good to see you. Maybe there is no better image that this one for who we are and what we do, ever suspended between the earth and the sky. Thank you for your heartfelt comment.

Ruth said...

Susie! Oh I love Millet too. My sister Susan (!) did a needlepoint for my parents of his "L'Angelus" of the peasants praying to the bells of Angelus as they near the end of their day in the field where they've labored. You're right, his sensibilities are very like Breton's. I'm so glad you got pleasure from this post, my dear. xoxo

Ruth said...

Cathy, hello my friend. What you wrote is what I was feeling too, just too much. While I rejoice with the movement in the Middle East, and the protests in Wisconsin, it is a dire time all around. I wanted very much to go to the Capitol today (we could meet!), but I have plans to help my sister up north. Let's hope there will be more protests on the doorstep of our Capitol. Let's get together there.

I'm glad you like the spring green header. I needed that too!

Ruth said...

Dusti, I don't get it either.

:-)

Stratoz said...

wonderful, made me take a closer look at her face and see/remember how a bird's call can transform us.

J.G. said...

So much going on in the painting and your poem! And yet it's all about the pause, ending the working day with birdsong and the ruffle of breeze in her hair, cool on the back of her neck. Lovely indeed.

Peter said...

Once more I got "lost" when checking your post. (I love to get "lost" in this way!) I discovered Ralph Vaughan Williams (shame on me!).