Samuel Palmer and Chagall is a poem about art, as it brings to us the paintings of two great artists, Palmer and Chagall. With the presentation of these two great artists or painters, the poet has actually tried to bring forth his own philosophy of art.
Samuel Palmer and Chagall Analysis
You would have understood each other well
And proved to us how periods of art
Are less important than the personal
Worlds that each painter makes from mind and heart.
The poem, Samuel Palmer and Chagall, by Elizabeth Jennings, has been written in conversational tone, which is very well-depicted by the very first line of its first stanza when the poet says: “You would have understood each other well”. The use of second person ‘You’ in the whole poem makes us assume as if the poet is directly talking to Samuel Palmer and Chagall.
Addressing them, the Elizabeth says that there is a great difference between their art and their personal worlds. To make it clearer, she says it is not the art that they create, but it is the desire of their hearts and souls that help them come up with such an outstanding piece of art.
While concluding the stanza, the poet says: Their art (artistic ability or creativity) ‘Are less important than the personal/Worlds that each painter makes from mind and heart.’
The greatest –Blake, Picasso – move about
In many worlds. You only have one small
Yet perfect place. In it, there is no doubt,
And no deception can exist at all.
Comparing the artistic activity of Samuel Palmer and Chagall with Blake and Picasso, Elizabeth says that where the former moved about in many worlds, you (Samuel Palmer and Chagall) just have one small, yet perfect place. By this, she may be referring to the limit of the spheres or reach of their artistic creativity and calibre.
Let’s clear it hear, in case of Palmer, she may mean Shoreham, near Sevenoaks where he, from 1826 to 35, lived in a house, called ‘Rat Abbey’, and Vitebsk, in the case of Chagall who also belonged to shtetl (a small Jewish town or village in Eastern Europe) of Vitebsk in 1915.
Or the limitation of their artistic sphere could also be related to their reach in the world of art.
With the juxtaposition of Blake with Picasso, the poet might have tried to show us the spread of the artistic creativity of both these great souls of the artistic and poetic world.
Where the former surpassed in the world of poetry, the latter is well-recognized as the great painter of his time, and is even today revered and respected for the artistic contribution he made to the painting and art world. And this may be the greatness and reach of both these great artists that Palmer and Chagall looks dwarf before them.
But at the same time, the poet says that the artistic spheres of both these artists are well-defined, that is; in their art, you will neither find any ‘doubt’ nor any ‘deception’. So, their art is as perfect as their artistic creativity.
Thus, the art of Palmer and Chagall though may not be like Blake and Picasso; they are yet perfect in themselves. They are free from deception, and undoubtedly ‘perfect’ in every respect when it comes to creating an amazing art.
Great qualities make such art possible,
A sense of truth, integrity, a view
Of man that fits into a world that’s whole,
Those moons, those marriages, that dark, that blue.
Presenting his own philosophy of art, the poet, in this extract, says that making such an art is not possible by ordinary human beings. It is only the great qualities that help him/her come up with such a fantastic piece of art. In order to create such an art, one must have a sense of truth, integrity, and view of man that will best fit into the world that’s perfect in itself.
Thus, likening the inner moral virtues of integrity and truth, with the external world, the poet says that the world is complete in itself. It has no ‘me’. And when she says: “Those moons, those marriages, that dark, that blue”, she may directly be referring to the painting by Palmer, entitled as “A Cornfield by moonlight with the evening star” and the painting by Chagall, christened as “Lovers in the moonlight”.
I feel a quiet in it all although
The subject and the scenes are always strange.
I think it is that order pushes through
Your images, and so you can arrange
Putting forth her philosophy of art, Elizabeth says she can feel quietness in the art though the created scenes and subjects in it may look strange to her. Elizabeth says thejre may be stillness in their art but there is still the presence of wildest and darkest dreams that make us realize what the painting wants to say.
The poet says: ‘I think it is that order pushes through/Your images, and so you can arrange.’
And make the wildest, darkest dream serene;
Landscapes are like still-lives which somehow move,
The moon and the sun shine out of the same scene-
Fantastic worlds but all are built from love.
In this concluding stanza, the poet says there is no movement on the canvas, it can only be found in the heads and hearts of the artists. This means that an artist creates an art with patience and silence in his heart and mind, but you never know what havoc is going in his/her mind. He/she makes it visible or expresses it only when he creates some art with thoughtful messages.
The poet says your world of painting looks fantastic, with shining moon and sun, but it is all because of the love that with which, the poet suggests, you both should paint.
Yes, the wildness must be in your hearts and souls, but it must not be reflected through the painting or art you create. You should rather reflect your love towards the natural objects.
Language and imagery
The poem, Samuel Palmer and Chagall, by Elizabeth Jennings is structured in a very simple rhyme scheme, which reads like abab cdcd etc. Right from the beginning to end of this poem, Elizabeth continues to echo her philosophy of art and makes a very neat comparison between two pieces of art and artists. The poem also consists of very straightforward use of language, instead the flowery one that is generally found in many poems of many different poets. Overall, it is an amazing poem with best comparison of the stalwarts from artistic world.