The Song of the Lark – 11 June 2018
This painting by Jules Breton is titled The Song of the Lark (1884). In those moments between night and dawn, a peasant girl is listening. Generally, there is not much in the scene to catch our attention, but through her stance and the expression on her face we know that she is riveted by what she can hear. The bird’s song cannot be represented, the subject of the picture cannot be seen. The bird and its beautiful song can be intuited only through the girl’s rapt attention. The picture encourages us to stop and listen. What can we hear?
In Willa Cather’s novel, The Song of the Lark (1915), Thea Kronborg visits the Art Institute in Chicago, and discovers this painting which for her is ‘right’, reacting to it so strongly it seems to be ‘her painting’. Thea, born a pioneer child, is a person of huge creativity, who in the novel grows with great confidence to her full potential. Through this picture she discovers herself and so is helped to move into her future.
In these days when we are marking the anniversary of the Representation of the People Act (1918) and many women final being able to vote (and today, 11 June, was the suffragist Millicent Fawcett’s birthday) we give thanks for all those who can hear or see something more, and who have the creativity and courage to move forward to make a better world.
Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow
The world should listen then,
as I am listening now.
To a skylark, Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1820
In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.