"The Palace of Art"

The fifth mood-room in “The Palace of Art” places the pastoral landscape in the context of human scale, productivity and consumption. Whereas previous stanza all but removes humanity from its meditation on the land and sky, the description of “reapers at their sultry toil” folds in not only the reapers as characters in the scene but also the implied pressures and demands of industrialized civilization on the landscape and urban residents. The “upland, prodigal in oil” looms large over the fertile fields and introduces an implicit conflict between urbanity and the pastoral.

The farmer at work in the fields or tending to a flock is a staple of Romantic literature and artwork. John Dawson Watson's 1862 sketch Oft did the Harvest to the Sickle yield illustrates a line from Thomas Gray's 1751 poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” and closely mirrors the scene described in “The Palace of Art.” Gray's poem represents the beginnings of Romanticism in the 18th century; Tennyson and Watson's works were published 80 and over 100 years later, respectively, yet the scene endures.

Click here to read the full essay.

< Previous | Home | Next >

And one, the reapers at their sultry toil.
In front they bound the sheaves. Behind
Were realms of upland, prodigal in oil,
And hoary to the wind.

Oft did the Harvest to their Sickle yield

Oft did the Harvest to their Sickle yield (1862) - John Dawson Watson