18th century Indian miniature. Artist unknown.
18th century Indian miniature. Artist unknown.

In the green morning, before
Love was destiny,
The sun was king,
And God was famous.

The merry, the musical,
The jolly, the magical,
The feast, the feast of feasts, the festival
Suddenly ended

As the sky descended
But there was only the feeling,
In all the dark falling,
Of fragrance and of freshness, of birth and beginning.

—Delmore Schwartz

I found this image over at the amazing Blue Lantern where Jane Librizzi has described this painting so beautifully that I feel I need to add her comment here. She writes, “Never put your subject in the center of the picture.” One of the first lessons of composition is upended in this touching 18th century Indian miniature. A young woman sits, huddled, by the water. One hand wipes her tears as she cries while the other hand braces her against the ground, offering some contact. The foliage behind her mimics her conflicted emotions: on one side a willow weeps downward toward the river; on the other blossoming branches reach up toward the light. Even the little flowers beside her join in. She is the fulcrum of the picture and we sense the movement of the planets in the trees behind her. “Distress: is its title, but the painting suggests an alternative. At the moment, the woman faces toward sadness, yet the possibility of hope is present even as she cannot see it. The unknown artist offers us in this exquisitely rendered moment, a world of wisdom distilled.”