A Fête Champêtre

Image: Antoine Watteau, A Fête Champêtre (c.1718). Oil on canvas. 60 x 75 cm. Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. http://skd-online-collection.skd.museum/de/contents/show?id=439078, 22 September 2015.

Antoine Watteau

The Dresden Gallery
 

A LOVELY, animated group
That picnic on a marble seat,
Where flaky boughs of beeches droop, 
Where gowns in woodland sunlight glance,
Where shines each coy, lit countenance ;
While sweetness rules the air, most sweet
Because the day
Is deep within the year that shall decay :

They group themselves around their queen, 
This lady in the yellow dress,
With bluest knots of ribbon seen
Upon her breast and yellow hair ;
But the reared face proclaims Beware !
To him who twangs his viol less
To speak his joy
Than her soon-flattered choiceness to annoy.

Beside her knee a damsel sits,
In petticoat across whose stripes
Of delicate decision flits
The wind that shows them blue and white
And primrose round a bodice tight—
As grey as is the peach that ripes :
Her hair was spun
For Zephyrus among the threads to run.

She on love's varying theme is launched—
Ah, youth !—behind her, roses lie, 
The latest, artless roses, blanched

Around a hectic centre. Two
Protesting lovers near her sue
And quarrel, Cupid knows not why :
Withdrawn and tart,
One gallant stands in reverie apart.

Proud of his silk and velvet, each
Plum-tinted, of his pose that spurns
The company, his eyes impeach
A Venus on an ivied bank, 
Who rests her rigorous, chill flank
Against a water-jet and turns
Her face from those
Who wanton in the coloured autumn's close.

Ironical he views her shape of stone
And the harsh ivy and grey mound ;
Then sneers to think she treats her own

Enchanted couples with contempt,
As though her bosom were exempt
From any care, while tints profound
Touch the full trees
And there are warning notes in every breeze.

The coldness of mere pleasure when
Its hours are over cuts his heart :
That Love should rule the earth and men
For but a season year by year
And then must straightway disappear, 
Even as the summer weeks depart,
Has thrilled his brain
With icy anger and censorious pain.

Alas, the arbour-foliage now,
As cornfields when they lately stood
Awaiting harvest, bough on bough  
Is saffron. Yonder to the left
A straggling rose-bush is bereft
Of the last roses of the wood ;
For one or two
Still flicker where the balmy dozens grew.

On the autumnal grass the pairs
Of lovers couch themselves and raise
A facile merriment that dares
Surprise the vagueness of the sun
October to a veil has spun
About the heads and forest-ways—
Delicious light
Of gold so pure it half-refines to white.

Yet Venus from this world of love,
Of haze and warmth has turned : as yet
None feels it save the trees above,
The roses in their soft decline
And one ill-humoured libertine.
Soon shall all hearts forget
The vows they swore
And the leaves strew the glade's untrodden floor.

 

Antoine Watteau

The Dresden Gallery
 

A LOVELY, animated group
That picnic on a marble seat,
Where flaky boughs of beeches droop, 
Where gowns in woodland sunlight glance,
Where shines each coy, lit countenance ;
While sweetness rules the air, most sweet
Because the day
Is deep within the year that shall decay :

They group themselves around their queen, 
This lady in the yellow dress,
With bluest knots of ribbon seen
Upon her breast and yellow hair ;
But the reared face proclaims Beware !
To him who twangs his viol less
To speak his joy
Than her soon-flattered choiceness to annoy.

Beside her knee a damsel sits,
In petticoat across whose stripes
Of delicate decision flits
The wind that shows them blue and white
And primrose round a bodice tight—
As grey as is the peach that ripes :
Her hair was spun
For Zephyrus among the threads to run.

She on love's varying theme is launched—
Ah, youth !—behind her, roses lie, 
The latest, artless roses, blanched

Around a hectic centre. Two
Protesting lovers near her sue
And quarrel, Cupid knows not why :
Withdrawn and tart,
One gallant stands in reverie apart.

Proud of his silk and velvet, each
Plum-tinted, of his pose that spurns
The company, his eyes impeach
A Venus on an ivied bank, 
Who rests her rigorous, chill flank
Against a water-jet and turns
Her face from those
Who wanton in the coloured autumn's close.

Ironical he views her shape of stone
And the harsh ivy and grey mound ;
Then sneers to think she treats her own

Enchanted couples with contempt,
As though her bosom were exempt
From any care, while tints profound
Touch the full trees
And there are warning notes in every breeze.

The coldness of mere pleasure when
Its hours are over cuts his heart :
That Love should rule the earth and men
For but a season year by year
And then must straightway disappear, 
Even as the summer weeks depart,
Has thrilled his brain
With icy anger and censorious pain.

Alas, the arbour-foliage now,
As cornfields when they lately stood
Awaiting harvest, bough on bough  
Is saffron. Yonder to the left
A straggling rose-bush is bereft
Of the last roses of the wood ;
For one or two
Still flicker where the balmy dozens grew.

On the autumnal grass the pairs
Of lovers couch themselves and raise
A facile merriment that dares
Surprise the vagueness of the sun
October to a veil has spun
About the heads and forest-ways—
Delicious light
Of gold so pure it half-refines to white.

Yet Venus from this world of love,
Of haze and warmth has turned : as yet
None feels it save the trees above,
The roses in their soft decline
And one ill-humoured libertine.
Soon shall all hearts forget
The vows they swore
And the leaves strew the glade's untrodden floor.