Friday, 24 October 2014

Tears, Idle Tears

I am an inveterate cryer.  I will weep at the drop of a hat, really I'm awful.  I believe the technical term for it is a 'self-defuser' which means that whenever I get angry or a bit too happy or generally overcome by un-English levels of emotion, I start crying.  Ridiculous creature.  Anyway, this week I came across this picture of someone having a good cry...

The First Place (1860) A Erwood

This charming genre piece is of a young maid overcome with the misery of her position in her first post away from home.  She was sweeping up the rug and just felt like having a sob into her pinny.  We've all been there love.  My first job after I left home with Mr Walker was as a temp receptionist at a business that sold doors.  I spent all day on the phone with people shouting because they hadn't received their doors.  It was all a little rum.  Anyway, I got to thinking that I should do a piece on people having a bit of a cry...

A Wife J E Millais
I wonder what's up with her?  Has her husband been cheating on her, gambled all their money away or maybe just not slept with her for five years?  Probably the latter as this is Millais.  I'm guessing she has found out her husband's deep, dark secret and it has rendered her unable to sit on a chair.  The horror!  The shame!  The implication for property prices in her area!  I dread to think what Mr Walker's deep dark secrets are; some of the stuff I already know is worrying enough...

Recalling the Past Carlton Alfred Smith
There are people who just cannot move beyond a moment in time.  Pinkie here seems to be weeping over some letters, love letters I'm guessing, and the recollections are not happy ones.  Did she leave him?  Did he leave her?  I'm not one to dwell on past love affairs (because there aren't any), mainly because stuff that happened in the past rarely makes me cry unless it affects my present.  Maybe Pinkie never got another offer.  Maybe she turned down a man for not having enough money, he then went on and made a fortune and married her sister.  She weeps because Jeremy Kyle will not be available for her to vent her spleen for another 150 years.  Smith seems to have done a lot of paintings of women contemplating - women gazing into fires, women looking out of windows.  A sizable body of his work could be entitled 'Do you remember that thing that happened in the time before now?  I feel a bit sad about it.'

At the Altar (1870s) Firs Zhuravlev
Oh deary me.  Well, it's leaving it a bit late when you're all dollied up in the big white frock but I suppose better now than five years down the line.  Is that who she is marrying?  Is that her father?  I don't mean to be personal as he does look a bit perturbed by the whole scene and that his bride (I'm guessing) has become a big meringue-y puddle on the floor.  Advice to the person in the doorway:  don't get involved, Love.  Leave them to it and see if you can your present back from the gift table.  Just in case.

The Restitution (1901) Remy Cogghe
I've used Cogghe's works a few time in my posts and I think he is a very interesting painter.  This is a curious picture as it is uncertain what is being restored to whom.  If the sturdy chap is giving the lass back something then why does she cry so much?  Has she returned something that doesn't belong to her and feels ashamed.  If she is the villain of the piece, he has painted her in such vibrant green and gold that it is impossible not to feel the compassion that our priest here seems to feel.  Is the woman being 'restored' to the church?  I love the gold of her hair in the middle of the canvas, echoing the gold in his hand, and I think the viewer is being told that she is the treasure that is being restored.

Lesbia Weeping Over a Sparrow (1866) (detail) Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Everyone gets sad when pets die, especially metaphoric, possibly phallic symbols of pets, but few of us have chosen to show our grief by sitting around with a dead sparrow on our lap.  It's time to bury that sparrow and move on.  The sparrow is meant to symbolise the passion of her lover and now it's all dead in her lap.  Well, that's the problem with symbolic pets.  Plus she doesn't seem very weepy.  I get a lot more soggy than that.  She looks a bit bored.  She should be thanking her lucky stars it wasn't a Great Dane.

Tears, Idle Tears E R Hughes
This young lady is managing dignity in crying, something that eludes the best of us otherwise.  Named after the Tennyson poem, either the girl is reading his work or reading something that is reminiscent of 'the days that are no more'.  I really like Tennyson's poem, he sums up the problem of feeling sad with no real reason other than things are not as they should be or were.  Sadness springs from nowhere, from memento mori in life, passing time, the seasons, remembering the dead, but then he mentions this: 'Dear as remembered kisses after death, / And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feign'd / On lips that are for others'.  That is a very complicated sadness, for things that never existed, of unrequited love, mentioned in a poem mostly about time passing and death.  Maybe the young lady in the picture is being moved to tears by the thought of never kissing the lips of the one she loves, but who does not love her?  Sad thought indeed.

Old School Fellows (1854) Alfred Rankley
There are obviously very few or no images of men having a good cry.  The Victorians went as far as men leaning manfully upon their male manly companion in times of manly need, but that's all.  When one feels extreme levels of grief, one remembers one is English and one bites ones knuckle and thinks of the Queen.  One would never cry until one makes the snorty noise. 
So, to those who only know me virtually, feel lucky that you never have to put up with me dissolving unexpectedly.  To those who do know me, at least I bring my own hankie...


  1. Tears Idle Tears is one of my favourite poems, "The times that are no more"! The Hughes painting is a lovely depiction of it. Thanks as ever

  2. Wow. Awesome article. Please do more articles like this in the future. Very informational and knowledgeable. I will expect more from you in the future. For now i will just bookmark your page and surely I'm gonna come back later to read more. Thank you to the writer!



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