A Silent Greeting 1889
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
The ‘silent greeting’ of the title is the gift of flowers that the young Roman soldier leaves for the sleeping woman. The subject was inspired by The Visit, a poem by the German poet and dramatist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832). Alma-Tadema took great pains over the accuracy of his depictions of the ancient world, carefully researching the architecture and interior details. However, the sentimental subject and the contemporary look of the figures – memorably described as ‘Victorians in togas’ – gives the painting the air of a modern costume drama.
THE VISIT. 1765
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
FAIN had I to-day surprised my mistress,
But soon found I that her door was fasten'd.
Yet I had the key safe in my pocket,
And the darling door I open'd softly!
In the parlour found I not the maiden,
Found the maiden not within her closet,
Then her chamber-door I gently open'd,
When I found her wrapp'd in pleasing slumbers,
Fully dress'd, and lying on the sofa.
While at work had slumber stolen o'er her;
For her knitting and her needle found I
Resting in her folded bands so tender;
And I placed myself beside her softly,
And held counsel, whether I should wake her.
Then I looked upon the beauteous quiet
That on her sweet eyelids was reposing
On her lips was silent truth depicted,
On her cheeks had loveliness its dwelling,
And the pureness of a heart unsullied
In her bosom evermore was heaving.
All her limbs were gracefully reclining,
Set at rest by sweet and godlike balsam.
Gladly sat I, and the contemplation
Held the strong desire I felt to wake her
Firmer and firmer down, with mystic fetters.
"Oh, thou love," methought, "I see that slumber,
Slumber that betrayeth each false feature,
Cannot injure thee, can nought discover
That could serve to harm thy friend's soft feelings.
"Now thy beauteous eyes are firmly closed,
That, when open, form mine only rapture.
And thy sweet lips are devoid of motion,
Motionless for speaking or for kissing;
Loosen'd are the soft and magic fetters
Of thine arms, so wont to twine around me,
And the hand, the ravishing companion
Of thy sweet caresses, lies unmoving.
Were my thoughts of thee but based on error,
Were the love I bear thee self-deception,
I must now have found it out, since Amor
Is, without his bandage, placed beside me."
Long I sat thus, full of heartfelt pleasure
At my love, and at her matchless merit;
She had so delighted me while slumbering,
That I could not venture to awake her.
Then I on the little table near her
Softly placed two oranges, two roses;
Gently, gently stole I from her chamber.
When her eyes the darling one shall open,
She will straightway spy these colourd presents,
And the friendly gift will view with wonder,
For the door will still remain unopen'd.
If perchance I see to-night the angel,
How will she rejoice,--reward me doubly
For this sacrifice of fond affection!
Sitting on the front porch tonight watching as the sun was setting over the mountains a very dear man (T.) read aloud to me select poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Since I know he is reading this I just want you to know that I feel so blessed to have you as a friend and a confidant for the last 38 years. You are so special and I love you, darlin'!
Have a great week everyone!
N Posted by Rain at 4/10/2007 12:32:00 AM