Quick Reference

Time Period:
June 1907

Location:
N/A

Medium:
Ink

Type:
Sketch

Gallery:
Illumination

Size:
Unknown

Exhibited:
No

Purchased:
No

Provenance:
NA

Noteworthy:

This short illumination booklet was put together by Woodward just nine months after his tragic accident. He signed it, "Miserably printed by me Robert Strong Woodward."

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Featured Artwork: The Love Leaf

You can click on any of the thumbnails to view a larger image of the picture or click on the link below it to view a full page version.


Additional Notes

This homemade "booklet" Woodward made for friend Helen Ives was part of a collection of papers, photographs and other items given to the Smithsonian Museum, and is found in their collection. It is dated June 13, 1907, just 9 months after his tragic accident that left him paralysed from the chest down and just 7 months after leaving the hospital. In it, he included a sketch he had drawn dated 1903, and self-styled calligraphy in his own hand and select verses from Robert Browning's poem Pauline. To the staff of the website, it appears unfinished given not all the work is colored in, unless that was a stylistic choice made by Woodward.


Full image of front cover ink sketch
Full image of front cover ink sketch
Full image of inside jacket with self-styled calligraphy
Full image of inside jacket with
self-styled calligraphy
Full image of stetch drawing and poem
Full image of stetch drawing and poem

Also, since it was found still in his personal papers suggest it was never sent to Helen. We do not know who Helen was to Woodward. At the very least she was a friend, it could be she was more to him than that. However, this booklet, bound by a leather strap (seen in these images) is a significant insight to Woodward's life just after it changed so dramatically. He did what he could through his creative nature as a means of coping emotionally with his new circumstances. He would spend another 3 years recovering and finding his strength before he would head east to attend the Boston School of Fine Arts for a short time and then land in Shelburne Falls at the home of his Uncle Burt and Aunt Tella.

The poem itself draws a vivid image of Woodward's love of nature - its woods... mountains...ponds. He writes of "new retreat" and describes what sounds like a santuary of safety and comfort. His description of the woods and still waters is reminiscent of his earliest oil paintings of his professional career. The following is a full transcription of the poem:

PAULINE

NO, WE WILL PASS TO MORNING-
MORNING, THE ROCKS AND VALLEYS AND OLD WOODS.
HOW THE SUN BRIGHTENS IN THE MIST, AND HERE,
HALF IN THE AIR, LIKE CREATURES OF THE PLACE,
TRUSTING THE ELEMENT, LIVING ON HIGH BOUGHS
THAT SWING IN THE WIND - LOOK AT THE GOLDEN SPRAY
FLUNG FROM THE FOAM-SHEET OF THE CATARACT
AMID THE BROKEN ROCKS! SHALL WE STAY HERE
WITH THE WILD HAWKS? NO; ERE THE HOT NOON COME
DIVE WE DOWN - SAFE! SEE THIS OUR NEW RETREAT
WALLED IN WITH THE SLOPED MOUND OF MATTER SHRUBS,
DARK, TANGLED, OLD AND GREEN, STILL SLOPING DOWN
TO A SMALL POOL WHOSE WATERS LIE ASLEEP
AMID THE TRAILING BOUGHS TURNED WATER - PLANTS:
AND TALL TREES OVER-ARCH TO KEEP US IN,
BREAKING THE SUNBEAMS INTO EMARELD SHAFTS,
AND IN THE DREAMY WATER ONE SMALL GROUP
OF TWO OR THREE STRANGE TREES ARE GOT TOGETHER
WONDERING AT ALL AROUND, AS STRANGE BEAST HERD
TOGETHER FAR FROM THEIR OWN LAND: ALL WILDERNESS
NO TURF OR GRASS, FOR BOUGHS AND PLANTS PAVE ALL
AND TONGUES OF BANK GO SHELVING IN THE WATERS,
WHERE THE PALE-THROATED SNAKE RECLINES HIS HEAD
AND OLD GRAY STONES LIE MAKING EDDIES THERE,
THE WILD-MICE CROSS THEM DRY-SHOD: DEEPER IN!
SHUT THY SOFT EYES - NOW LOOK - STILL DEEPER IN!
THIS IS THE VERY HEART OF THE WOODS ALL AROUND
MOUNTAIN-LIKE HEAPED ABOVE US; YET EVEN HERE
ONE POND OF WATER GLEAMS; FAR OFF THE RIVER
SWEEPS LIKE A SEA, BARRED OUT FROM LAND; BUT ONE--
ONE THIN CLEAR SHEET HAS OVERLEAPED AND WOUND
INTO THIS SILENT DEPTH, WHICH GAINED, IT LIES
STILL, AS BUT LET BY SUFFERENCE; THE TREES BEND
O'ER IT AS WILD MEN WATCH A SLEEPING GIRL,
AND THROUGH THEIR ROOTS, LONG CREEPING PLANTS STRETCH OUT
THEIR TWINED HAIR, STEEPED AND SPARKLING; FARTHER ON,
TALL RUSHES AND THICK FLAG-KNOTS HAVE COMBINED
TO NARROW IT; SO, AT LENGTH, A SILVER THREAD,
IT WINDS, ALL NOISELESSLY THROUGH THE DEEP WOOD
TILL THROUGH A CLEFT-WAY, THROUGH THE MOSS AND STONE,
IT JOINS PARENT-RIVER WITH A SHOUT. [ROBERT] BROWNING

For more on Robert Browning... CLICK HERE

In a brief look into Browning's poem we came across this analysis from Michael Peverett of the blogspot site intercapillaryspace Peverett says the following about Pauline: [emphasis by us]



"Pauline is a fragmentary poem about the unnamed narrator's inability to commit himself to poetry. His conception of poetry is vastly ambitious, its blueprint an apotheosized Shelley. Perhaps the very ambition makes failure inevitable, or perhaps he is right to analyze traits of vacillating weakness, vanity, over-egocentrism, over-self-analysis, insincere religiosity, insufficient love for others, and the rest. But Browning at 21 [same age at this time as Woodward] wasn't yet interested in the miniature detail of character portraits; there is no concreteness of situation, hardly any human association, and a turmoil of inner development that looks like it could cycle round and round for ever. Pauline is best when the narrator's imagination is given free rein, fragmentarily and confusedly, but boiling with

pent-up energy... The narrator's poetic is in an unstable relationship with the poem that contains him: it tries intermittently to suggest the kind of poem he cannot manage, maybe (secretly) to even be it.That opens up an experimental space that later triumphs would exclude."

5 Triangle Trapeziod Symbol from back cover of The Love Leaf
5 Triangle Trapeziod Symbol from back cover
of The Love Leaf

The analysis Michael Peverett makes leads us to consider the similar emotional state of Woodward at this time. We are not qualified to make such inferences, however, Woodward DID choose the verses from Pauline that were relevant to him. We find it quite auspicious that the verses he chose figuratively describe what would become a prominent theme in his earliest professional work. Peverett's remark, "there is no concreteness of situation, hardly any human association, and a turmoil of inner development that looks like it could cycle round and round for ever," could be said of Woodward as well.


Letter-type label from the photograph
This symbol of five triangles, 2 pointing down
and 3 up, was also found in a small book of poetry
RSW wrote 9 months after his tragic accident.

Another interesting item from this booklet is a symbol of 5 triangles in the shape of a trapezoid found on the back cover. We do not know the significance of the symbol used by Woodward but it was also used in To Tell Mother I love Her, another item found in the Smithsonian Museum, collection. Triangles often represent a "profusion" of thoughts and emotions because depending on the frame of reference, they could be pointing in any of three directions. However, in the context to which Woodward arranged the triangles suggest an exchange of conscious energy with a subconscious energy rising from his depths.