The Poetical Works of Thomas Hood, by Thomas Hood

The Progress of Art.

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!

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hood/thomas/poetical-works/poem152.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 20:51