'Sweet Thames! run Softly' (from Edmund Spenser's 'Prothalamion' )
Florence Kate Kingsford Cockerell (1871 -1949)
Nymph-like figures adorn a meadow along a riverbank, some gather flowers in their wicker baskets, for a bride and groom, according to Edmund Spenser's, Prothalamion (1596), from which the title derives. Two swans approach and a child leans over about to place a garland of flowers on one of them: “Two fairer birds I yet did never see; The snow which doth the top of Pindus strow Did never whiter show, Nor Jove himself, when he a swan would be For love of Leda, whiter did appear;… Against their bridal day, which was not long: Sweet Thames! run softly, till I end my song.” This is a painted Victorian interpretation of Spenser’s marriage poem by the female illustrator and calligrapher who married Arts and Crafts enthusiast and later Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Sydney Cockerell, whose brother was the bookbinder of Ashendene Press, publisher of Spenser’s poems, where she worked.
Oil painting on canvas, Sweet Thames ! run Softly' by Florence (Kate) Kingsford Cockerell (1871 - 1949), circa 1900. A scene from Edmund Spenser's 'Prothalamion', (1596): There in a meadow by the river’s side A flock of nymphs I chancéd to espy, All lovely daughters of the flood thereby, With goodly greenish locks all loose untied As each had been a bride; And each one had a little wicker basket Made of fine twigs, entrailéd curiously, In which they gather’d flowers to fill their flasket, And with fine fingers cropt full feateously The tender stalks on high. Of every sort which in that meadow grew They gather’d some; the violet, pallid blue, The little daisy that at evening closes, The virgin lily and the primrose true: With store of vermeil roses, To deck their bridegrooms’ posies Against the bridal day, which was not long: Sweet Thames! run softly, till I end my song. With that I saw two swans of goodly hue Come softly swimming down along the lee; Two fairer birds I yet did never see; The snow which doth the top of Pindus strow Did never whiter show, Nor Jove himself, when he a swan would be For love of Leda, whiter did appear; Yet Leda was (they say) as white as he, Yet not so white as these, nor nothing near; So purely white they were That even the gentle stream, the which them bare, Seem’d foul to them, and bade his billows spare To wet their silken feathers, lest they might Soil their fair plumes with water not so fair, And mar their beauties bright That shone as Heaven’s light Against their bridal day, which was not long: Sweet Thames! run softly, till I end my song. A preliminary sketch for a competition - 2nd Prize. Fairy-tale like figures adorn the banks of a river which stretches into the distance on the left side. Two swans approach and a child whose feet are in the water leans over about to place a garland of flowers on one of them.
acquired by the artist's fellow - pupil in the Royal Academy Schools, Mrs Geoffrey Woolner; thence by inheritance until accepted by HM Treasury in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the National Trust, Bradley Manor, 2002.
Bradley Manor, The Woolner Collection (accepted by HM Treasury in lieu of Inheritance Tax and transferred to The National Trust in 2002)
Makers and roles
Florence Kate Kingsford Cockerell (1871 -1949), artist