"Jones and Calypso: A Monologue in the Studio"

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Frankenstein, Edited by Stuart Curran
STUDY AIDS : IN POPULAR CULTURE

"Jones and Calypso: A Monologue in the Studio"

Sebastian Evans (from In the Studio [1875])

 

Evans calls the prospect that a painting has a life independent of its artist mere "Frankenstein nonsense."


So, once more, my redoubtable painting,
   We'll battle it out, you and I!
In spite of your fencing and feinting,
   I swear to be master or die!

What! your cunning shall baffle me? Shall it?
   Set your back to the easel and see!
Mark me! War to the knife—of the palette!
   No Frankenstein nonsense for me!

No, my picture, I mean to achieve you,
   Yea, sell you, perhaps—and buy shares,
If indeed, I don't royally leave you,
   Encodicilled safe from my heirs,

To the Gallery whence in defiance
   Pepper-Castor and Pollux astare
Look askant on the column and lions
   Through the haze of the squirts of the Square.

Oh, I know all your tricks, to my sorrow,
   How you gird at your maker, and grin!
Well, it mayn't be to-day nor to-morrow;
   Who cares? I can wait and can win.

Yet I own that a spirit more tricksy
   No wizard e'er spelled from the spheres:
Never Will-o'-the-Wisp, Puck or Pixie
   Led a thornier dance through the breres.

Talk of spirits departed, out raking,
   Invading our ceilings and floors;
Not a whole neck-and-cropolis waking
   Could play me such antics as yours!

One day, o'er my matins Manilla,
   I see through the smoke-eddies' curl
How you show me a skinless gorilla
   Where I fancied I painted a girl!

On the limbs of my gracious she-presence
   I had dreamed I caught splendour and sun;
You display me the blue iridescence
   Of muscular veal, underdone!

I wax wroth: 'tis the pestilent weather!
   This fog would make saffron look blue!
I re-glaze you: there's nothing like leather?
   Saint Luke, but there is! and 'tis you!

With the tints of a tea-rosy dawn, I
   Re-glaze you again before dusk:
Next day you're a fine foxy-tawny,
   With a skin like a husk or a rusk!

Yet again, with my model to study,
   Fighting shy of the yellows and blues;
You are clear of them both. You're pure muddy,
   With a patch on your cheek like a bruise!

Well, who cares? Ere I finish the figure,
   My chameleon turn-coat, at last,
Spot of leopard and swartness of nigger
   Shall be printed in colours less fast!

No, my Proteus, you quit not my fingers
   Till you tell Aristæus the whole:
Till you chant the last secret that lingers
   Untold in the deeps of your soul:

Till you sing me how Art hath a story
   For all, yet for each one alone;
Like a rainbow, for all shedding glory,
   Though each sees a bow of his own!

I can wait till I win. All the trouble
   Shall bloom in repose at the end;
All the glazing and scumbling thrice double
   I grudge not, to make you or mend.

He did it, my Titian did it!
   He glazed, painting into the glaze;
Glazed again, again painted, and hid it
   Yet again with a radiant haze;

Working on, till he showed you like Nature
   Life's flame shining out through the skin,
All the outlines and forms of the creature
   Lit up by the spirit within.

Not the trick of the trowel and plaster
   To prove that his handling was free,
But the trick of the genuine master,
   The trick that no mortal can see.

Aye, the deftest of all cheiromancy
   Is a Titian's sleight with the brush;
But the "handling" your critics so fancy
   He valued at less than a rush.

Yes, for all that is greatest in painting
   The secret of secrets is work:
'Tis your little Great Master, who, fainting,
   Casts about how to seem not to shirk.

True, the rudest of strokes tells you clearly
   The artist who can from who can't:
But in Art, 'tis the master not merely
   Who can, but who does, that we want!

Was it wrong, when old Fubsey, the dealer,
   Came ferreting over my way,
To leave you about as a feeler,
   To hear what mine ancient would say?

"Har," quoth F, "going in for the Grecian?
   Classic, hay? Well, your model ain't bad:
And your colour—a shy at Venetian?
   You always was fond of a fad!"

Was it wrong to explain: "This young person
   Is Calypso, once reckoned divine:
Highly mentioned by Homer, whose verse on
   The subject is thought rather fine.

"This is how she appeared when she parted
   From an elderly gent in the Guards,
Whom she kept seven years, and then started
   To his wife with her kindest regards.

"Poor young thing, you can see how acutely
   She feels it, her happiness wreckt!
Homer gives the costume, too, minutely,
   Which vastly improves the effect!"

"Hm!" says Fubsey, "Next time you're a-doing
   A pot-boiler, take my advice,
And don't go a-fretting and stewing
   On subjects as won't fetch the price.

"But you're always for fads! They don't answer:
   They're all well enough for mere lads:
But for you? I'm a practical man, sir,
   The market's too risky for fads!"

Was it wrong to respond: "Yes, precisely,
   But suppose I've an object in view?
My Fubsey, thou reasonest wisely,
   But what's a poor devil to do?

"Suppose, now, I wish to be famous?
   Don't you think I should get my R.A.?
I allow I'm a mere ignoramus,
   But isn't this picture the way?"

"Har," says he, "well, I know what you are at, now,
   Though I don't see your way over clear:—
The R.A.—Yes, there's something in that, now,
   As good as two thousand a-year!

"I like a young feller to hanker
   For fame as will help him to sell:
When fame is hard cash with your banker,
   Why, in course, to be famous is well.

"It's your grand, high-falutin' vagaries,
   Your Haydons and that, as I hate:
Fools as fancy the world out o' square is
   Because it don't reckon them great.

"There's yourself, now, at times. What a bother
   You make with your Titian and such!
Michael Angelo, this, that, and t'other,
   High bosh of high art in High Dutch.

"Lord! It ain't as I don't understand your
   Tall talking: He's great, Michael A!
But I tell you, his grimness and grandeur
   Aren't articles likely to pay!

"Look'ee here! Since I first took to dealing,
   There's a dozen at least made a name:
I don't paint, but I've got the right feeling,
   And I've noticed they all did the same.

"It's the manner, sir! Manner's the ticket
   That brings in the grist to their mills:
Why, all over their pictures they stick it
   As plain as the stamp on Parr's pills.

"Never mind what it is! Don't be queasy!
   Only yours let it be,—no mistake!
And, mind! It must come to you easy,
   Or you can't do the work that you'll take!

"Ev'ry canvas as comes from your easel
   Must speak in the clearest of tones;
So that even the 'bus-cad who sees'll
   Say straight without book, 'That's a Jones!'

"Look you, Tibbs—he can't paint worth a copper,
   But he's just got the manner as pays;
Why, he's twice as much grist in his hopper
   As he'll grind all the rest of his days!"

Wouldst thou teach me, my Fubsey, what Art is?
   Nay, prithee, the lesson forbear!
I can dine, I can dance at thy parties,
   And learn the last Shibboleth there!

Why, Miss A. can expound me all Ruskin
   As we swing from the whirl of a waltz;
Lady B., of the statelier buskin,
   Teach me Blake through the lancers by halts;

Miss de C., like a seraph, but more so,
   O'er a spoonful of pine-apple ice
Can in confidence tell me the Torso
   Isn't Theseus at all—but so nice!

My superfluous Fubsey! The manner,
   Past doubt, is the point to achieve.—
But which shall we follow—the banner
   Of Doing, or Making Believe?

I opine, if I puzzled my cranium,
   Keeping always an eye on the till,
I could hit on a fine succedaneum
   More paying, my Fubsey, than skill.

Say, for instance, I grandly demolish
   Chiaroscuro itself, thick and thin:
From my canvas all shadow abolish
   As a note of original sin?

Bibbs has done it, and finds that it answers
   In quasi-Greek figure and group;
And a score or so young necromancers
   Follow Peter Schlemihl in a troop!

Or suppose, with old Fibbs, the prodigious,
   I leave Nature and Art in the lurch
For sham sentiment, semi-religious?
   Why, the game is as safe as a church!

Or with Nibbs, drop a tiny oasis
   Of plot in a desert of scene?
Or with Cribbs, grind eternal pink faces,
   Like as sausages made by machine?

Ah, my Croesus! The butter and honey,
   I grant you, are excellent cheer!
I profoundly respect ready money—
   But why should I buy it so dear?

God forgive thee, old Fubsey! Poor sinner!
   What a life! Yet he fancies it sweet!
Nay, perhaps he may wake after dinner,
   Musing, "Jones hasn't got such Lafite!"

A mere puff-ball existence, divulging
   No hint of leaf, flower, or fruit;
Just a bulb of white fungus-pulp, bulging
   Over wrinkles which serve for a root.

Yet, a gull not a whit less than guller,
   Poor soul, he's a creed of his own;
He believes that a pigment is colour,
   That a varnish—God bless him!—is tone.

For the rest—tut! he cares not a fico:
   If he does, he prefers, I should say,
Mister Tibbs's fine gooseberry Cliquot
   To the cream of my Titian's Tokay.

How politely the creature applauded
   My novel devotion to Fame!
He was hardly more kind when he lauded
   My "Two in Arquà"—for the frame!

Think of Fame viâ Fubsey! How grateful
   The glory reserved for the brave!
What is life worth, compared with a plateful
   Of puffs from the fool and the knave?

Fame at best! Would you know what she is? Mark
   Yon photographs there in the shop:
Patti, Darwin, Anonyma, Bismark,
   And the Siamese Twins up at top.

What! You say, "Just a fugitive fashion;
   Notoriety, merely, not Fame?"
Well, but stripped of all temporal passion,
   How you will, the result is the same.

What of Homer's serene High-and-mighties
   Whom he packed off to glory pell-mell?
What's Achilles, pray, more than Thersites?
   Penelope better than Nell?

Homer's self—was he one? Was he many?
   Or compiled by some politic muse?
True, the poems are greater than any,
   But their greatest of glory is—whose?

Yet he's greatest, we say. Who's to know it,
   Grant him greatest that lives to be read?
'Tis most like, the authentic Arch-poet
   Lies forgot, with the rest of the dead.

Fame, forsooth! A curator of dummies,
   She herself but a dummy as dumb!
A Sphinx dropt asleep o'er her mummies,
   Who will sleep though Belzoni may come.

In her dreams she can mumble of Pharaohs,
   One Ramses, she stammers, was there: --
But the Titians, the Mozarts, the Maros
   Of Memphis and Thebes—they are—where?

With the River-drift Euripideses,
   The Cavern-age Byrons and Scotts:
Reindeer milk-maiden Nilssens and Grisis,
   The Pfahlbauten Smeatons and Watts!

Foot of stag, ear of hare, eye of vulture,
   Nose of bloodhound once justly were fame:
Whose fame? In the "progress of culture"
   The gifts, too, are lost with the name.

Who's your Phidias palæolithic
   Sketching mammoth from dawn to the dusk,
In an artist's fine frenzy pre-mythic,
   With a flint on a fragment of tusk?

Who, ah, who was the Pleistocene Milton,
   Not inglorious, surely, nor mute,
When he pegged the first mutton-skin kilt on,
   Singing "Man was not always a brute?"

Aye, or later, what Norseman Beethoven
   Sang his love-staves in Opslö at Yule,
Till the Hard-i'-rede Harold, heart-cloven,
   Drank tears in his wine of Stamboul?

True, your Giotto wrought one campanile:
   What Giottos, not Fame's, wrought the rest?
Yet a Lincoln, a Wells, or an Ely
   Had their Giottos as good as the best.

But, allow that the fleet-winged Romancer
   Sifts at last the false work from the true:
Grant her trumpetings Gospel:—I answer,
   'Tis greater to be than to do!

Yes, but being, you tell me, is doing,
   None great, but he acts what he is: --
True, but Shaksperes when baking or brewing,
   Don't achieve such a glory as his!

You may act, say, in this form or that form;
   You who act are not greater nor less:
But it lies in your choice of a platform
   Whether Fame will ignore or caress.

Our Shakspere himself:—what we rave on
   Isn't Shakspere—'tis only his robe.
He was greater at rest by the Avon,
   Than at work in Bankside at the Globe.

No! The Fame I should care for is only
   When my hand has forgotten its art,
If some stout fellow-worker as lonely
   Shall see what I've done and take heart.

Some wrestler, who, fighting it single,
   Shall look on my work and find cheer:
Shall muse, all his pulses a-tingle:
   "Aha, brother mine, art thou here?"

So shall gird him again to his fighting,
   With a dominant plait of the brow:
"Brother mine, thou hast dealt me my knighting,
   For this—to do better than thou!"

That's Fame! What the deuce does it matter
   Who does what there is to be done?
Heaven bless us! Why make such a clatter
   Whether Tom, Dick, or I be the one?

Well, and what if I'm known not for ever?
   'Tis a pity, perhaps—not for me!
Not for me! I have done my endeavour,
   Did I do it for gossips to see?

Look you yonder! A lion-heart Viking
   Will win if he may to the Pole:
North, North! ever dodging and tricking
   The traps of the pack and the shoal.

North, North! But the second December
   Hears his tread never more on the deck;
There he sits o'er the flickering ember,
   By the snow-covered wrecks of his wreck.

His own gallant schooner, his darling,
   Has been cracked like a nut by the floe;
The bears, his sole neighbours, are snarling
   O'er a comrade half-scraped from the snow.

All alone by the gnash of the surges
   In the creeks of the caverns beneath,
Where the world from its uttermost verges
   Looks out evermore upon death;

And close, in the ice-fog abysmal,
   As the last flicker dies to a spark,
Comes that snarl through the clash cataclysmal
   Of icebergs atilt in the dark;

He piles him a cairn from the lumber
   To tell that he once has been there,
Gives his soul back to God ere he slumber,
   And yields up his bones to the bear.

Let his peers follow North with their navies!
   'Tis well, though they follow and fall!
Well for them if they find where his grave is,
   For himself—he was there! That was all!

He was there! Yes, he wished they should find him,
   As he died ere he deigned to despond:
He was there! Might his brothers behind him
   See his tomb, and go venture beyond!

And what, say his death-bed has drifted
   Far South as he lay there asleep;
That the thaws of the Gulf-stream have sifted
   His bones on the floor of the deep?

He was there! Yea, though none through all ages
   Shall know of his venture again:
He was there! safe at least from the sage's
   "Poor fool, to go thither in vain!"

Yes; he did what he meant to do duly,
   For he meant but to do what he could:
A Plus Ultra in Ultima Thule
   He raised—hath it perished or stood!

He was there! Will ye seek in the Sistine
   The cairn of a like lion-heart,
Builded high on the peaks amethystine
   That point to the Pole-star of Art?

Such an one, too, was there! Do ye know him --
   That soul who was taught of the Star?
Him, who pictured that terrible poem
   Up there with its burden: "Thus far!"

Him, the Thaumaturge, shaping his will in
   High riddles on ceiling and wall;
Oracular, mystic, Sibylline,
   The secrets of Life and the Fall?

Him, Prometheus, the Titan, the fearless,
   And his work—as of days ere the Flood,
Wrought in agony speechless and tearless,
   And splashed with a sweat as of blood?

Do ye know him, the man Buonaroti,
   Him who watched by his Art as she fell,
With a brow that long since had grown knotty
   Over eyes that had stared into Hell?

Prate of Fame to that prophet of sorrow?
   For his toil promise glory untold?
Nay! As soon might the Sorcerer borrow
   The gifts of a Peter for gold!

Not for him nor his like shall the Circe
   Mix madness and blood with her wine!
She hath wooers enough at her mercy;
   Shall Odysseus go herd with her swine?

Ha! Come hither, Odysseus! Calypso
   Lives here on my easel again!
Thus she looked when she grudged you a ship so,
   And wept when you talked of the main!

O Love! Not the passion, the madness,
   Stamping eld on the brow of the youth,
But the quiet, the calm, and the gladness,
   Making eld ever young with the truth!

O rainbow, so subtle and tender,
   Conjured up from the days that are done:
Thou that cheerest me still with thy splendour
   When my path lies away from the sun:

Love of Beauty, for ever that heapest
   Fresh flame on the shrine of the heart,
At thine altars the highest and deepest
   Unveiling of Nature and Art!

In thy mysteries, Nature for ever
   Is maiden in beauty and youth;
Yea, though Art, overshadowing, leave her
   Divinely the Mother of Truth!

Tush! A truly terrestrial pigment
   Is this on my canvas the while!
I must fain shut my eyes on my figment,
   Would I see how Calypso can smile.

Now I see her, at home in her valleys,
   Not a bird nor a blossom more free:
Singing sweet in the green hazel alleys:
   Laughing out, catching sight of the sea:

Now she stops: 'tis the black-caps that whistle;
   Now she stoops: 'tis the plume of a jay,
Nigh a humble-bee drunk on a thistle,
   Who gladdens her heart for a day.

My Calypso! My maiden of maidens!
   Fair as e'er was May-morn and as fresh:
All the grace and the glory that gladdens
   In the roses revealed in the flesh!

O Voice up in Heaven, that greetest
   The day till thy carol unborn!
O Sovran of all that is sweetest
   In song of the springtide and morn!

O reverend Chaucer! O hymner
   All peerless of beauty and race!
O master! O cunningest limner
   Of joyance, and girlhood, and grace!

O Poet of youth! Could I dip so
   My brush in thy colour divine,
I would paint thee a canvas Calypso
   As deathless as Homer's or thine!

My Calypso! My girl at all issues!
   My beauty, my passion, my dread!
If I paint thee, a fig for Odysseus!
   Thou shalt make me immortal instead!

Original publication date

1818
1831

Published @ RC

May 2009