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After the Day’s Work—ca. 1863

Fall 2008 - Vol. 50, No. 4

after the painting by Jean-François Millet

A high full moon now dominates the scene,
White with reflected sunlight whose pale
rays
Silhouette figures looming as they move,
Gone down a path back home through
Chailly Plain.

The man sits sideways on the old lead mare,
Her blindered eyes following gorsesplotched
ground,
A rope he holds pulling the younger horse,
A plough-team blurred in nightfall's yellowbrowns.

Across the flat expanse of rock and shrub,
Walking by a rickety cottage fence,
A widow brings late gleanings to her sons
Whose father's, like this worker's, day is
done.

The peasant, grave and ancient, simply
stares
In telling resignation far away
Not toward the dwelling-place his tired
beasts seek
But one beyond this realm of moon and
sun.

David Middleton

[Author's Note: These verses remember Mark Royden Winchell both as a biographer and as a

reviewer of my book The Habitual Peacefulness of Gruchy: Poems After Pictures by Jean-François Millet (LSU Press, 2005).]