Once more let us recall Ruskin’s teaching in regard to enclosed spaces. The artist is unhappy if shut in by impenetrable barriers. There must always be, he says, some way of escape, it matters not by how narrow a path, so that the imagination may have its liberty.
This is the principle which our painter has applied in his picture. He wisely gives us a glimpse of the sky above, and shows us the shady vista of the garden walk leading to the great world beyond.
Our illustration is from a charcoal drawing, which, like the Knitting Lesson, is matched by a corresponding painting.
[Footnote 1: In Modern Painters in the chapter on “Infinity.”]
The early twilight of autumn has overtaken two peasants at the close of a day’s work in the field. They are gathering the potato harvest. The dried plants are first pulled up, and the potatoes carefully dug out of the holes. Then the vegetables are taken from the furrows by the basketful, and poured into brown linen sacks to be carried home on the wheelbarrow. One of these sacks is not yet quite full, and the work has been prolonged after sunset.
The field is a long way from the village, but in the still air sounds are carried far across the plain. Suddenly the bell of the village church peals forth. The man stops digging and plunges his fork into the earth, and the woman hastily rises from her stooping posture. The Angelus bell is ringing, and it calls them to prayer.
Three times each day, at sunrise, midday, and sunset, this bell reminds the world of the birth of Jesus Christ. The strokes are rung in three groups, corresponding to the three parts of The Angelus, which are recited in turn. The first word gives the bell its name,—Angelus, the Latin for angel.
“The angel of the Lord announced
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
“Behold the handmaid of the Lord,
Be it done unto me according to thy word.
“And the word was made flesh
And dwelt among us.”
Thus run the words of the translation in the three couplets into which they are separated, and then this prayer is added: “We beseech thee, O Lord, pour forth thy grace into our hearts; that as we have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an angel, so by his cross and passion we may be brought into the glory of his resurrection, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Besides this, after each couplet of the Angelus, is recited that short hymn of praise, beginning with the words which the angel of the annunciation addressed to Mary, “Ave Maria.” This is why the hour after sunset is so often called the hour of Ave Maria. The English poet Byron has written of this solemn moment:—