‘Self-portrait’ a poem by John Christopher Wade



In London are found, the vistas, vales and ponds of Hampstead Heath, And Kenwood House, upon a time a noble-man, to the nation bequeath,

Our happiness often made a beeline for Kenwood’s garden, In a green oasis, blissfully we picnic ‘neath a bashful sun, Under towering beeches, and beside banks of rhododendron, Barbara Hepworth’s, vigil for a son, Monolith-Empyrean,

Newspaper read; stroll to the house, out of the sun (or rain,) Be welcomed without hindrance, entranced quite free, Through grand Regency rooms, with views of rural domain, Sunny verandah to a stunning jewel, the Adam library,

In a corner hangs a self-portrait, by Rembrandt H. van Rijn, An old man, sports a chalk-white impasto’d, cloth cap,
A student of life, draughtsmanship, oil-paint and turpentine, On reflection, his brush with life, was on the final lap,

This man from Leiden, the chiaroscuro of his life, laid bare for posterity, Earl Iveagh’s Kenwood, open to all, an enlightened act of great humanity,

Rembrandt stands, right hand in his pocket, observing you, His left, holds palette, paint brushes and maulstick,
Studied the line of sleeve and cuff, after his hand withdrew, In fur trim coat, a handy prop in a cold, drafty attic,

An aging face, lacking all pretence, destined for immortality, Transcends frame, canvas, paint and talent sublime, Rembrandt’s mirror, helps us to glimpse, our own mortality, Alone, unflinching, his genius stands the test of time,

He died penniless, buried in an unmarked, paupers cemetery, Visit him in Kenwood. We can’t undo wrongs of the past, But can honour Rembrandt, through this portrait’s geometry, As outside, families sit in harmonious circles upon the grass.

What connects Shakespeare and Milton and Picasso and Arthur C Clarke?, Rembrandt and Guinness; their generosity of spirit, their epitaph and hallmark.

Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief,
Where can any judgement fall,
That does justice to all? _____________________________________


Self-portrait by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, painted circa 1665-1669. Sculpture by Dame Barbara Hepworth, Monolith-Empyrean, sculpted 1953. Portrait of Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh, copy by HM Paget, from the original by Sir Arthur Stockdale Cope RA., painted circa 1912.

John Christopher Wade

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