We moved house this summer – so this poem is apt: the ‘clocks and carpets and chairs on the lawn all day’. We moved to Maidenhead in Berkshire, so the painting is apt: Stanley Spencer lived and worked most of his life in Cookham, just 2 miles away.

But this is a combination of opposites. I suspect Hardy would have been unimpressed. His poem is full of melancholy, despite the memories of family jollity and life. Each stanza is subverted by each final pairing of lines. They rob each collage of memories of its levity and sun. Because this is a poem overshadowed by our mortality. As the poem’s very last lines remind us.

But Spencer was obsessed with the Resurrection. He painted several. One of them has already featured in a Q combo. In part it was a response to the horrors of World War 1. But it went further than that. Because if true, the resurrection changes everything. It does not deny the dying. There is still grief. But as this picture shows, it denies the ending. For here there is life after life. And it will be bustling and teeming and lively.

No twanging harps and feckless cloud-dwellers for Spencer. Thank God.

 

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