[Burne-Jones, Edward]. "Essay on the Newcomes." Oxford and Cambridge Magazine 1 (Jan. 1856), 50-61.


Some few years ago a monthly periodical was published upon the subject of art and poetry; it appears to have ceased after a few numbers, not without having spoken something that will live in echoes yet. As the frontispiece of one number was an etching by Holman Hunt, an illustration indeed to a poem, but the latter having so little reference to it, that it may well stand for an independent picture; truly a song without words, and yet not wholly speechless, for out of its golden silence came voices for all who would hearken, telling a tale of love. Two lovers are together in a meadow, by a pool of standing water, and behind them a circle of trees is throwing morning shadows on the grass; she is kneeling, stooping forwards to gather wild flowers growing on the bank, clasped and circled by the arm of him who loves her and shall be her future lord, he is bending lovingly over her, shielding her from harm; yet there is no peril in the water, and the space between her and the edge is great, still he clasps her lightly, guarding her from a danger that is not: judge of it, O lovers! how true it is. But below, in another scene, lies a figure flung upon the foreground, lying all his length, and his face pressed deeply into the fresh mould of a grave, for behind him, in the distance, the nuns are passing, singing Dies iræ and Beati mortui, and the bell is sounding close behind him as he lies quiet. Surely he will never rise and come away! wherefore did she die, and how? and was it long after the flower-gathering by the water side on the summer day[?] I know how it all came to pass, and you would also if you saw the picture: silently, quite silently, has the story taken form. I would not tell the legend as it comes to me, for your version would be altogether otherwise, and yet both most true: something like this we cry for, is it not like a cry for food?

Out of oblivion, for the sake of justice, I have made this memorial of a forgotten picture; not for invidious distinction, or because it is the only articulate voice among so many: it serves to exemplify my meaning about story in pictures. There is one more I cannot help noticing, for its marvelous beauty, a drawing of higher finish and pretension than the last, from the pencil of Rosetti [sic], in "Allingham’s Day and Night Songs," just published; it is I think the most beautiful drawing for an illustration I have ever seen, the weird faces of the maids of Elfinmere, the musical timed movement of their arms together as they sing, the face of the man, above all, are such as only a great artist could conceive. Why is the author of the Blessed Damozel, and the story of Chiaro, so seldom on the lips of men? if only we could hear him oftener, live in the light of his power a little longer.

This document was scanned/transcribed from the original source.

Copyright © 1999 Thomas J. Tobin.

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