Thomas Gainsborough painted this portrait around 1750. It was still in the Andrews family until 1960 and was relatively unknown until then. It is now in the National Gallery, London.
“Yet another room of paintings and of lifeless air,
What I’d give for a rest and a comfy chair
For my aching legs.
Let’s go for a coffee or perhaps a beer!”
“No wait! Look at this! Look at this one here!
Just look at this couple in early September.
Husband and wife in a field of wheat,
Proudly she sits on an old green seat,
With half of Essex at her feet!”
“Mr Gainsborough, don’t worry about the shower.
Mr Andrews has promised to give us an hour.”
“Yes, I promised an hour,
And for an hour I’ll stay,” he said,
And he thought “What I´d give to be far away,
To get on with the business of the day.
There are pheasant to shoot and partridge and grouse.
Better out in the fields with my dog and my gun
Than standing here in front of my house.”
“And John, take these sheaves in right away.
They’ll rot in the rain if we let them stay.”
“The dog, Mr Andrews, hold him fast.”
For the dog is longing to run past
The stream in the distance and over the stile.
There are rabbits to hunt in the hedge by the wood.
“Why the wait? What’s the good
Of sitting here on a garden seat,
Just waiting in front of a field of wheat?”
Mrs Andrews in pale blue, prim and pretty,
“What a pity
To be here in the field in the morning dews
That have wet my stockings and spoilt my shoes.
I wanted our portrait done indoors,
On my polished chairs and my polished floors,
By the sitting room fire, if I could choose.
But Robert insisted on being out here
On the creaking seat by the old oak tree.
I can’t for the life of me see why.”
And she thinks of the afternoon and tea,
And of friends who will keep her company.
Mr Gainsborough fills his brush with paint.
“I will colour the wind and colour the clouds,
And the changing sky and the grass and the wheat,
And the young couple here with their dog at their feet,
And give them a painting to remember.
When people in rooms of portraits fine
Walk on and on, both bored and tired,
I want them just to stop by mine
And look and gaze and nod and say
‘This makes sense to me, this day in September.’ ”
And then the first drops lightly fall.
“That’s fine. That’s good. I have done all
I need to do for now. I can finish it inside.”
With the canvas covered, they all run back
To the waiting house, to the spacious hall.
She shakes her dress and combs her hair,
And stands before the fire to dry,
And he puts back his gun on the rack with a sigh.
The dog reluctantly comes in too,
Pushes open the closing door,
With his wet and muddy paws
Leaving his prints on the polished floors.
“All this standing around! No walk at all!
No rabbits chased! What a stupid waste!”
In the growing drops of the thickening shower,
The men pick up the seat and grumble,
As they trundle it over the lawn again,
On that morning of bustle with something done,
In the late summer rain and the late summer sun.