Victorian Public Domain Poem for Gardeners and Nature Lovers: Who Taught the Birds? by Caris Brooke

by Caris Brooke
(originally published June 17, 1893)

To and fro, to and fro,
From the chestnut tree to the meadow grass,
Day after day I watched her pass;
Where did the little birdie go?
With drooping wing and ruffled breast,
Hopping along with a broken leg,
She came to my window, as if to beg
Crumbs for the little ones up in her nest.

Far and high, touching the sky
Where the chestnut flowers are pink and white,
Every morning and every night
She carried worms, or grubs, or fly,
To a nest that was woven of moss and feather,
Where the little bird-babies chirrup and cheep,
And over the nest-edge try to peep --
Five little yellow bills open together.

Slowly, in pain, in sunshine and rain,
The mother-bird went on her weary way;
But the little ones waited that summer day,
And chirruped and called for her -- all in vain.
I opened my window, and found her lain
Just where the sunlight touches the sill --
Not waiting for crumbs, but cold and still --
Never to fly to her nest again.

Little mouths to be fed, and their mother dead --
Must the poor wee birdies with hunger die?
Watching, I saw another bird fly
Straight to the nest with a crumb of bread.
To and fro, without staying to rest,
She carried them morsels of dainty food,
Till she satisfied all the hungry brood;
Then gathered them warmly under her breast.

* * * * *

Now tell me, Who had whispered to the little birdies's heart
To fly to those forsaken ones, and take their mother's part?

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Art for Inspiration: The Old Stairs, Raixa by Santiago Rusiñol

The Old Stairs (Pedres velles), Raixa, 1907
by Santiago Rusiñol (1861 - 1931)

The painting:
Santiago Rusiñol's burgeoning success as a painter enabled him to concentrate almost completely on the subject closest to his heart, Spain's gardens and landscapes. When Rusiñol travelled to Mallorca, he sojourned in the locality of Bunyola whose opulent gardens became the inspiration for works such as this.

The present work depicts the upper half of the flight of stairs dedicated to Apollo in the Raixa Gardens, north of Palma de Mallarco. Originally laid out by the Moors, the Raixa Gardens were redesigned by Cardinal Antoni Despuig i Cotoner during the eighteenth century. Begun in 1902 and completed in 1907, Pedres velles is one of four pictures Rusiñol painted of the steps.

The artist:
The charismatic leader of Catalan Modernism, and a founder of Els Quatre Gats in Barcelona, Rusiñol travelled widely and spent extended periods in Paris. Notwithstanding his position as a leading member of the international avant-garde, however, it was in Spain that he was able to explore the full range of his resonant palette and where many of his most powerful and evocative works were completed.

Source: Sotheby's.

Art for Inspiration: Gray Day on the River by Frederick Carl Frieseke

Gray Day on the River
by Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874 - 1939)

The painting:
In Gray Day on the River what is presented to the viewer is so evanescent as to be almost illusory. The surface of the water (fully half the painting) is not visible, but only to be inferred from the presence of transitory shadow, light and reflection. Much of the remainder of the painting’s surface represents the shimmering greenery of what grows randomly along the river’s bank. Only the certain lines of the boat give us enough reassurance to trust the identities of the two small figures. We know their story is a peaceful one. Everything tells us that. Still, there is energy here; an energy barely contained.

The artist:
Frieseke’s early works, before Giverny, are disciplined, not only towards accuracy, but toward a strict limitation in permitted color harmonies. The model, the costume (if any), and any associated objects (hatbox, doorway, necklace, dressing table, lamp), are selected with an intent determined by design. And the design in turn is determined by a stern control that is frequently belied by the tenderness of an image’s effect.

For Frieseke, the move toward plein air painting necessitated his abandoning much that he had relied on when applying structure toward his vision. In Gray Day on the River, perspective does not apply. Instead, the painter is confronted by an anarchy of nature whose organizing principles have little to do with what makes a picture. In both this painting and in its sister, Before the Bath, the foreground is simply the undetermined, plane of water on which the boat rests: a plane that takes light, shadow, and reflection without confessing either its depth or its extent.

Excerpt Source: Sotheby's.