“The Painter and His Sitter.”

[From the Crayon.]

At his easel sits the Painter, at his canvas large and white,
And he gazes on the sitter, in the clear, soft studio light,
And with yielding charcoal deftly draws his outline bold and free,
Till the face and form are penciled, for a cunning hand has he;
Then in graded semicircle spreads his colors and his hues,
Whites and reds and sunny yellows, sober greys and browns and blues;
And the sitter sees the palette (but is hid the canvas face),
Sees the primal law and order, every color in its place,
Each proportioned to the other—all seems plain and understood,
And he builds his dream, and trusts the growing picture will be good.
Soon, however, on the palette, while the picture is unseen,
All is mixed in strange confusion, and he says, “What can it mean?
Can these patches and those scratches ever come to anything?
From such muddy streaks and blotches can a fair creation spring?
For the sitter must not stir to see the work that’s going on,
Till the portrait is completed, and the artist’s task is done.
Like this puzzled sitter, often sits believing, doubting man,
On the Universe he looks and sees a little of the Artist’s plan:
Secs with philosophic eye, the laws that govern and direct,
Transversing the world in order—free of discord and defect,
Each a promise of fulfillment—each a hint for hope and faith,
While the infinite Creator breathes through all his living breath.
Life is rich—the world is perfect—all is order, joy and peace.
Can this vision of perfection, spanning earth and heaven, cease?
Ah! the days grow dark and darker—and the harmony we seek,
Crossed by bitter winds of discord, turns into a maddened shriek.
Hope is crushed and faith bewildered—all in wild confusion whirled,,
And the skeptic laughs—“It is a dauber’s palette—this brave world!
Where are all your primal colors—where your lovely light and shade?
All is chance and contradiction—out of which what can be made?
I see not the Artist’s meaning—I see not the end in view,
I must sit and watch his fingers, till his work is carried through.”
But the Painter still is working—through these forms of sin and strife,
Out of all this seeming chaos, moulding fairer forms of life,
And one day the patient sitter, from the ARTIST’S point of sight,
Shall behold his form transfigured, glowing in the perfect light.

PARIS, April, 1854.