Friday, January 27, 2012

“Myles, as in a dream, kneeled, and presented the letter”

“Myles, as in a dream, kneeled, and presented the letter” illustrates the following passage from the second installment of Howard Pyle’s novel Men of Iron in Harper's Young People for January 27, 1891:
[The Earl of Mackworth] was a tall man, taller even than Myles’s father. He had a thin face, deep-set bushy eyebrows, and a hawk nose. His upper lip was clean shaven, but from his chin a flowing beard of iron-gray hung nearly to his waist. He was clad in a riding-gown of black velvet that hung a little lower than the knee, trimmed with otter fur and embroidered with silver goshawks - the crest of the family of Beaumont.
A light shirt of link mail showed beneath the gown as he walked, and a pair of soft undressed leather riding-boots were laced as high as the knee, protecting his scarlet hose from mud and dirt. Over his shoulders he wore a collar of enamelled gold, from which hung a magnificent jewelled pendant, and upon his fist he carried a beautiful Iceland falcon.
As Myles stood staring, he suddenly heard Gascoyne’s voice whisper in his ear, “Yon is my Lord; go forward and give him thy letter.”
Scarcely knowing what he did, he walked towards the Earl like a machine, his heart pounding within him and a great humming in his ears. As he drew near, the nobleman stopped for a moment and stared at him, and Myles, as in a dream, kneeled, and presented the letter.
Pyle’s devoted student Thornton Oakley bought the original black and white oil painting (7.75 x 10.5" - done in Summer or Fall of 1890) from Herb Roth for $42.00! It now lives at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

This one - like a few others from the novel - makes me ache. Is it the almost photographic “presence”? The deceptively simple composition? The grouping of figures, tones, textures? Pyle is lauded for his scenes of dramatic action, but time and again I’m more affected by his scenes of dramatic inaction.

1 comment:

kev ferrara said...

Pyle knew many secrets of art. Like how to make the ordinary seem like a dream.