Gleaning what you may – 8 August 2022
The name of this picture suggests that a call has gone out to those in the fields. It is the end of the day, time to gather your gleanings and leave the fields. Those gleaning are mostly women accompanied by some children. They have, in fact, managed to glean good quantities of corn.
The setting here is pastoral. To the left, in the background, there is a flock of sheep. A shepherd leans against a stone post, rubbing his eyes. Next to him sits his dog.
The picture is of a real rural setting, but it is also a metaphor. Sometimes experiences in life have to be ‘gleaned’. At those times it will be important to pay attention to the fields of life, and see what can be gathered in. What is worth keeping and taking home? What can be kept that will be real food?
The painting is Le rappel des glaneuses (Calling in the Gleaners) by Jules Breton (1859). It is one of many of peasant women gleaning the fields painted by Breton.
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.
Weary gleaner, whence comest thou,
With empty hands and clouded brow?
Plodding along thy lonely way,
Tell me, where hast thou gleaned today?
Late I found a barren field,
The harvest past, my search revealed.
Others golden sheaves had gained,
Only stubble for me remained.
Forth to the harvest field away!
Gather your handfuls while you may;
All day long in the field abide,
Gleaning close by the reapers’ side.
Careless gleaner, what hast thou here;
These faded flow’rs and leaflets sere?
Hungry and thirsty, tell me, pray,
Where, oh, where hast thou gleaned today?
All day long in shady bow’rs,
I’ve gaily sought earth’s fairest flow’rs;
Now, alas! too late I see
All I’ve gathered is vanity.
Burdened gleaner, thy sheaves I see;
Indeed thou must aweary be!
Singing along the homeward way,
Glad one, where hast thou gleaned today?
Stay me not, till day is done
I’ve gathered handfuls one by one;
Here and there for me they fall,
Close by the reap’rs I’ve found them all.
Philip P Bliss, 1875