Whistler’s Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux
Valerie Susan Langdon (1847-1910), a banjo-playing barmaid/actress, secretly married Sir Henry Meux, a wealthy London brewer and baronet.
The soft gray background curtain sets the scene.
Downstage is Lady Meux, in afternoon dress--
Standing in profile, her face toward us—the sheen
Of cool pink satin on her train and vest.
Her gloved right hand rests primly at her side,
The same hand kissed by rich Sir Henry Meux,
Who plucked her from a dance hall. Mortified,
His family shunned her when they heard the news.
Yet Whistler rescued harmony in light
And line, transmuting fashion into art,
Wielding his brush against the social slight,
Shaping the shape that helped her play the part.
She stares defiantly, with velvet eyes,
At anyone who’d dare to criticize.
This poem was previously published at Theodate, and in Carolyn Raphael book, Dancing with Bare Feet, Kelsay Books, 2016.
Carolyn Raphael retired from the English Department at Queensborough Community College, CUNY after more than thirty years of teaching. Her poems have been published in journalsand anthologies including Measure, The Lyric, Oberon, Mezzo Cammin, and Verse Daily. She was on the short list for the 2014 Able Muse Book Award and was a finalist for the Richard Wilbur Award. She is the author of two chapbooks: (Diagrams of Bittersweet, Somers Rocks Press, 1997 and Grandma Poems—Not Too Sweet, Kelsay Books, 2017). Her two poetry collections are The Most Beautiful Room in the World (David Robert Books, 2010) and Dancing with Bare Feet (Kelsay Books, 2016). She is the poetry coordinator of Great Neck Plaza in Great Neck, New York. This involves her choosing a poem each month for “Poetry in the Plaza,” which places poems on local bulletin boards, much as “Poetry in Motion” places poems on the New York subway. She also coordinates the annual Great Neck Plaza Poetry Contest. carolynraphaelpoetry.com
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