Saturday, 26 March 2011

The Thresher's Labour

My picture is based on Van Gogh's 'The Thresher' (after Millet) painted in Saint-Rémy in 1889. A copy of a copy which loses something in the 'translation', My picture looks more like the Grim Reaper than a farmyard thresher. But maybe that ambiguity contains a glimmer of truth...

It is a strongly biblical image, suggesting the last days and the final judgement - the seperation of Wheat and Tares - of good and evil. It becomes a metaphor for the inevitablity of judgement and punishment of wickedness.

The Thresher's Labour a poem by Stephen Duck (1730) interestingly he later became a Rector in Byfleet so maybe he is not just describing an everyday farmyard scene, but something bigger, grander and more ultimate....
lines 27-41 of the poem are quoted below (the only ones I could find online):

So dry the Corn was carried from the Field,

So easily 'twill Thresh, so well 'twill Yield;

Sure large Day's Work I well may hope for now;

Come, strip, and try, let's see what you can do.

Divested of our Cloaths, with Flail in Hand,

At a just Distance, Front to Front we stand;

At first the Threshall's gently swung, to prove,

Whether with just Exactness it will move:

That once secure, more quick we whirl them round,

From the strong Planks our Crab-Tree Staves rebound,

And echoing Barns return the rattling Sound.

Now in the Air our knotty Weapons fly;

And now with equal Force descend from high:

Down one, one up, so well they keep the Time,

The Cyclops Hammers could not truer chime...

Stephen Duck was apparently a vicar in Knaphill who came to a tragic end - drowned himslef in a canal. Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical verse -a quibbl - about him On Stephen Duck, the Thresher, and Favourite Poet. A Quibbl

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