Visit to an Artist

Elizabeth Jennings


Elizabeth Jennings

Nationality: English

Elizabeth Jennings was a British poet and writer known for her lyrical and introspective style.

Her first collection was Poems in 1953.

Elizabeth Jennings is a highly esteemed poet. One of the Seven Man of Vision whom she praises is David Jones. The poem, Visit to an Artist by Jennings, is dedicated to this Seven Man of Vision, the poet, and artist, who made many drawings from the window of his lodgings in Harrow-on-the-Hill, where he lived in seclusion in the last part of his life. His world gradually reduced to the experience of trench warfare in the First World War, apprenticeship in Eric Gill’s extended family, Arthurian and Welsh legends, a devout understanding of the sacramental theology of the Church, and combined these with a detailed eye for particularity. His art culminates in studies of living trees, of flowers in a chalice-like goblet, of seascapes seen through a window. It is paintings like these to which Elizabeth Jennings’s poem Visit to an Artist refers.

Visit to an Artist by Elizabeth Jennings


Analysis of Visit to an Artist

Window upon the wall, a balcony

With a light chair, the air and water so

Mingled you could not say which was the sun

And which the adamant yet tranquil spray.

In this first stanza of the poem, Visit to an Artist by Elizabeth Jennings, the poet seems to be in an Art Gallery, or at such a place where the paintings of David Jones who she regarded as the Seven Man of Vision, are displayed for public view, and the poet may be one of those visitors who have come to visit this Art Gallery.

Or, the poet may be in a secluded place where she could be in the thought of her David Jones, remembering all those paintings that she had seen in his company. No matter where she is, the scene is clear that she has always been an admirer of her friend and on seeing or remembering a painting in front of her, she explains what she sees in it.

Observing the painting, she says there is window upon the wall, a balcony with a light chair, the air and water is so artistically mingled that a normal visitor to an art exhibition may not be able to recognize and distinguish which was the sun and which was the adamant yet tranquil spray. The poet is here shown praising the artistic and painting skill of David Jones about whom she says that his paintings are so natural and real that it is really very hard to find faults with it, and even unable to distinguish between the sun and tranquil spray.

The painting is so beautiful and naturalistic water mingled with paints do not let you make easily differentiation between the things painted in the painting. The poet seems to be so impressed with it that she cannot help herself praising what the painter has made and tried to say through his art.

But nothing was confused and nothing slow:

Each way you looked, always the sea, the sea.

In the second two lines of the poem, the poet says that there is not any sort of confusion and slowness, meaning painting the poet is seeing neither slow nor confusing. You can look at it from any side, and from whatever side you look at it, you will only see the sea and only the sea. However, let me tell just as the description has been given by the poet, it looks she is giving an account of sea-view. There is all around nature in the first stanza, and in the next two lines. When I read through these lines, it takes me to the sea-side, where I am sitting in my balcony, and there is a sea mingled with blowing wind and water all around.

And every shyness that we brought with us

Was drawn into the pictures on the walls.

In the above two lines, the poet might have tried to expression the touch of relationship and love between her and David Jones. The poet here talks about the shyness existed between both of them, and praising the artistic and painting skill of the painter, she says: “shyness that we brought with us was beautifully drawn into the pictures of the walls.

It was so good to set quite still and lose

Necessity of discourse, words to choose

And wonder which were honest and which false.

Remembering the time when the poet was in the company of David Jones, she says that she can still remember the time when they both were known to each other and shared whatever they had in their mind and heart. Recalling the time, she says though there was a shyness in our relationship, it was really good to be quite and lose the necessity of discourse and struggled to choose what words they should pick to carry on their discourse, and it was really difficult to find out which words were false and honest.

Through these three lines, the poet may also mean their meeting that would have in the drawn balcony, and the shyness that used to be rampant when they sat together without saying even a single word to each other, found it really difficult (due to shyness) which words were honest and false.  Let me tell you here that in David Jones’ theology, the world is sacramental, and everything points beyond itself to the divine reality it contains and embodies

Whatever the poet may mean by these lines, thorough reading of these lines and their irrelevancy with the above lines show that the poet is talking about the relationship that existed between both of them. And when we read through the following lines of the poem, it comes to know that the poet may be talking about their one of the discourses that they both might have had while discussing art.

Then I remembered words that you had said

Of art as gesture and as sacrament,

A mountain under the calm form of paint

Much like the Presence under wine and bread –

Art with its largesse and its own restraint.

In these final five lines, the poet remembers those words that David Jones shared with the poet. She remembers what he had said about the art. Here the poet tries to bring forth the views of the painter about art, and let her readers know what he thought of art.

The poet says that David Jones regarded art as gesture and as sacrament; it was like a mountain under the calm form of pain quite similar to the Presence under wine and bread. The poet says that David Jones believed Art has its own largesse and its own restraint. It cannot be restrained by anyone.

It is free like imagination. It is to be noted here that all through the poem, the poet has nature-related objects, such as mountain, sea, air, water and more. Besides, through this poem, the poet has also tried to peep through the relationship between her and David Jones. Since she was very much inspired by David, this poem is fully dedicated to him and his art.

Through this poem, she has also tried to shed light over David’s love towards nature, and his picturing those natural objects in his paintings. Thus, the visit of poet to David’s shows what she experienced when she visit to an Artist.


Final Comments

The poem, Visit to an Artist by Elizabeth Jennings, is an account of experience and sight-seeing the poet had the pleasure of viewing when she visited an Artist. The Artist in this poem is non another than David Jones, the poet and artist, who made many drawings from the window of his lodgings in Harrow-on-the-Hill, where he lived in seclusion in the last part of his life.

This poem explains the vivid description of the Artist house, and makes the readers feel as if they themselves are viewing it live. This is an amazing poem with best naturalistic description of the artist’s house who she had visited. She explains how tranquil and peaceful was the atmosphere there in the artist’s house, and how shy they were when it was getting really difficult to choose words.

She even remembers what the poet artist, David Jones, had said about the words. She even talks about her relationship with David, and remembers, how shy they were feeling while talking to each other.

Overall, the poet, Elizabeth Jennings has given the best pictorial description of the poet artist house through her beautiful verses of poem, called Visit to an Artist.


About Elizabeth Jennings

Born in Boston, Lincolnshire, Jennings died on October 26, 2001, Bampton, United Kingdom. Though she was an in-born poet, she actually started writing after completing her graduation. Though highly influenced by lyrical poets like Hopkins, Auden, Graves and Muir, her imagination was massively inspired when she spent three months in Rome.

This not so long but worthy  stay in Rome turned out to be a turning point in her life, and after this she never looked back. Jennings is famous for her mastery of form and lyric poetry. Her work comes inclusive of the simplicity of rhyme and metre.

Undoubtedly, Elizabeth Jennings is regarded as the most unconditionally loved poet of her generation. Indeed, her poetry is so different that it is hard to imagine how she can ever have been seriously associated with them in the minds of critics.

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Dharmender Kumar Poetry Expert
Dharmender is a writer by passion, and a lawyer by profession. He has has a degree in English literature from Delhi University, and Mass Communication from Bhartiya Vidhya Bhavan, Delhi, as well as holding a law degree. Dharmender is awesomely passionate about Indian and English literature.

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