Tuesday, June 7, 2011

“The Robin’s Vesper”

The June 7, 1879, issue of Harper’s Weekly featured this full-page (12 x 8.9") illustrated poem titled “The Robin’s Vesper” by Howard Pyle. According to his younger sister, Katharine, this was one of the first things Pyle did after relocating from New York to Wilmington.

For the longest time I was under the impression that Pyle had left New York toward the end of 1879, but Katharine recalled that her brother’s “A Milkmaid’s Song” - published in Harper’s Weekly for July 19, 1879 - was also done shortly after his return to his hometown. Granted, Katharine’s not the most reliable witness, but fortunately we have at least two newspaper items that back her up: on May 12, 1879, the New York Herald lamented, “Howard Pyle has gone to Wilmington, Del., we regret to hear, to stay.” And the Art Interchange for May 28, 1879, noted, “Howard Pyle has left New York for good and is now living in Wilmington, Del.”

In the late 1870s through the early ’80s, Pyle made a couple of genre pictures such as this, akin to and almost contemporaneous with some of Winslow Homer’s studies, like Autumn and Peach Blossoms.

Pyle did the hand-lettering himself, too, and in case you find yourself tripping over his long s’s, here’s a transcription:
The Robin’s Vesper
by Howard Pyle

When shadows brood upon the hill,
And daylight draweth to a close;
When frogs pipe by the lowland rill,
Within the valley’s dim repose;
Then the small bird seeks her nest,
Swinging on the blossoming spray;
Only Robin doth not rest,
Singing to the dying day.
Sweet Robin!
Merry Robin!
So I’d have my Soul to be,
Singing clear
Thro’ the near
Shadow of Eternity.

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