John Singer Sargent, 'Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose' 1885-6

John Singer Sargent
Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose 1885-6
Oil on canvas
support: 1740 x 1537 mm frame: 2185 x 1970 x 130 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1887

A poem inspired by John Sargent's work Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose.

Reimagined Garden

                On John Sargent’s Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

 Look, Polly, look
how our lanterns blush –
the skipping half-light, such
almost like moons
but not quite –

and all around us
drowsy lilies with long anthers,
grass brushing against our knees.
The perfumed air,
the garden’s ours,
and the queen bees rule.

Dolly I’ve done mine now,
I’m pleased
even if the wind blows.
Here roses don’t stop growing
and lilies last forever.
Let’s hurry up
it’s almost time.

Oh the Barnhard girls,
light on their slender arms,
their rustling cotton sleeves,
that summer they never
grow out of.
So much to fill,
so little time before the sun goes.

If only you’d let me finish my song.
Would you let me finish my song?
Carnation, lily, lily, rose,
hands lily white, lips
plump and juicy red.
Time on their napes
and soft elbows
but none for me.
Where is my Cotswolds of yesterday?