Summer evening – 27 June 2022
Here is a picture that captures some of the joys of summer evenings. Lilies are blooming straight and tall (can you smell them on the night air?). Roses and carnations run across the ground. The light is only just beginning to fade, and two girls are lighting lanterns which they will hang among the foliage. The girls are dressed in white, so mingling with the flowers, the frills of their dresses like petals. The picture captures something of the freshness and joy that comes each summer, the joy of the garden, and delight in longer evenings. The lilies, pale pink roses, and white dresses give the picture a sense of purity and innocence.
This picture is ‘Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose’ (1885/86) by John Singer Sargent, in the Tate Gallery. Sargent painted this picture while staying at the home of the American artist F D Millet, Farnham House, Worcestershire. Every evening for three months in the summer of 1885, Sargent would carefully arrange his models (eleven year-old Polly and seven-year-old Dolly, the daughters of the illustrator Frederick Barnard). Then, he would paint rapidly for two to three minutes to capture the mauvish light at dusk. Evening after evening he painted in this way, forced at the send of the summer to sue artificial flowers to finish the painting.
Beginners must realize that in order to give delight to the Lord they are starting to cultivate a garden on very barren soil, full of abominable weeds. His Majesty pulls up the weeds and plants good seed. Now let us keep in mind that all of this is already done by the time a soul is determined to practice prayer and has begun to make use of it. And with the help of God we must strive like good gardeners to get these plants to grow and take pains to water them so that they don’t wither but come to bud and flower and give forth a most pleasant fragrance to provide refreshment for this Lord of ours.
Teresa of Avila
It will be Summer — eventually.
Ladies — with parasols —
Sauntering Gentlemen — with Canes —
And little Girls — with Dolls —
Will tint the pallid landscape —
As ’twere a bright Boquet —
Tho’ drifted deep, in Parian —
The Village lies — today —
The Lilacs — bending many a year —
Will sway with purple load —
The Bees — will not despise the tune —
Their Forefathers — have hummed —
The Wild Rose — redden in the Bog —
The Aster — on the Hill
Her everlasting fashion — set —
And Covenant Gentians — frill —
Till Summer folds her miracle —
As Women — do — their Gown —
Or Priests — adjust the Symbols —
When Sacrament — is done —