The Honourable Mrs. Graham, by Thomas Gainsborough.
Mrs. Graham, I often find myself wondering
how you came to be posing beside this stone pillar
with its enigmatic cameo, under the weight
of heavy gathering storm clouds that frown
upon the stately garden below
with its ancient evergreen trees and golden trailing ivy
that reaches for you like a would-be lover.
It seems that someone is forcing you
to choose between that love-struck beau
and the husband I assume you are gazing at: clearly,
for you, no novel choice - for you appear bored,
irritated even. So what secret are you hiding, fair lady:
how many have been driven insane by those dark eyes
and luminous skin so white?
They'll have duelled to the death to win you, I'm sure,
and will have offered you many a country seat
or even a palace or two. Yet there you stand,
stubborn, in your lavish carmine and silver gown:
a grandiose "belle of the ball" in momentary respite
from the tedious fending off of endless suitors...
So, please Thomas, tell me who commissioned you
to paint this society beauty - a proud husband?
Yet I see no wedding ring, so is she widowed?
Aah...now it begins to make sense...
Perhaps it is sadness that I mistook for boredom
in those huge dark eyes, and the husband
I believed you gazed at is no more than a fading memory.
On closer inspection you do seem far away, as if
trapped in a sad dream, with the dark clouds of grief
gathering around you, obliterating all traces of joy.
And the ivy could be reaching out to offer comfort
to a lonely widow. So Thomas Gainsborough
must have been recording your sorrow in that gloomy hour
that comes just before dawn, when everything in the garden
is disguised by graded shades of twilight
and your glorious luminosity is the only bright thing.
So, Honourable Mrs. Graham, is it a happier future you are hoping for
as Thomas paints you in your carmine and silver gown
beneath those gathering storm clouds
in that grand stately garden
beside the stone pillar
that boasts an enigmatic cameo?