John Martin

British, 1789 - 1854

The Bard

Date: 1817



The subject comes from Thomas Gray's poem The Bard (1755) and had been popular throughout the Romantic period, with versions by Thomas Jones, William Blake and Henry Fuseli. Gray tells how Edward I, after his conquest of Wales, ordered all bards to be slaughtered in order to draw the people's cultural and nationalistic sting.

The sole surviving bard here stands:

'On a rock, whose haughty brow
Frowns o'er old Conways foaming flood,
Robed in the sable garb of woe,
With haggard eyes the Poet stood;
(Loose his beard and hoary hair
Stream'd, like a meteor, to the troubled air)
(II. 15-20)

He curses the departing armies:

'Ruin seize thee, ruthless King!
Confusion on thy banners wait'
(II. 1-2)

(Source: Desmond Shawe-Taylor - Art Treasures of England)

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