This week we explored the theme suggested by Herbert Read in his introduction to the first edition of Francis Webb’s Collected Poems: “the so tender voyaging line of truth”. This line appears in the poem “Self-Portrait”, part of Webb’s praise of the artist Anthony Sandys (1806-1883) which appears in Webb’s Around Costessey series. Here are some of the images used in this weeks session, interwoven with recordings of our discussions. Thank you all who took part.
First we looked again at “On First Hearing a Cuckoo” which illustrates so well Webb’s search, through the difficulties of human consciousness, for a stable centre, a place of contemplative peace, here mediated by the sounds of the “two words” of the cuckoo
We followed this by looking at Webb’s early poem “An Old Record” and also exploring Judith Beveridge’s wonderful essay “Making Space for the Inner Life: Judith Beveridge on Poetry and Spirituality (NewsWrite Issue 209, June July 2013) (link is added here). This essay provides a wonderful framework for exploring some aspects of Webb’s work. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 65 also seems to be at the heart of Webb’s reflections here.
From here we moved onto those poems which bear the full weight of his line “the so tender voyaging line of truth”, namely those poems relating specifically to the artist Anthony Sandys, Sandy’s Self-Portrait in particular, and also the amazing painting of the Norfolk Broads with the Windmill against a backdrop of a golden sunset. This painting, one of a collection of Norfolk paintings that Webb bought while hospitalized in England, is now part of the Webb Research collection in the Willoughby Library Chatswood. There you will find all of Webb’s paintings together with the books that were part of his personal library.
Here is the recording of our discussions on this aspect of Webb’s work: