Tolkien's Landscapes 2: 'Foxglove Year'~ picture by Tolkien, poem by jan-u-wine.
'Foxglove Year', was painted in the summer of 1913, apparently notable for foxgloves and worth recording in watercolour. Tolkien had been doing paintings and drawings from life since boyhood. 1913 was also the year Tolkien became engaged to Edith Bratt. Fr. Francis Morgan, Tolkien's guardian, had forbidden him to see Edith until he'd come of age, and, on Tolkien's twenty-first birthday, 3 January 1913, he dashed off a proposal.
That summer, Edith was staying in Warwick with her cousin, Jennie Grove. Her relations, opposed to her conversion to Catholicism (she agreed to convert before marrying Tolkien, a devout Catholic), had turned her out. While Edith was in Warwick, Tolkien traveled into Worchestershire, staying for a while with his maternal cousins, the Incledons. They had a cottage in Barnt Green Tolkien loved to visit, both for the company of his cousins and its idyllic setting. At the bottom of this post I've included another watercolour Tolkien painted while staying there, a view of the Incledon's garden filled with flowers. In just one week it will have been one hundred years since Tolkien painted the foxgloves of Barnt Green. So much time has gone by, but Tolkien's watercolours are still vibrant and fresh.
Tolkien must have been feeling very content and high-hearted during his stay in Worchestershire, both because of the high summer beauty all around him and because he was engaged to Edith at last. Jan-u-wine's poem well conveys the mood, both of the watercolour and its painter.
It was a foxglove year.
A foxglove year,
the sirening purple-ivory-pink revelry of them
rioting within an unremarkable Spring.
It was a foxglove year, the winds above the oak yet chill with retreated Winter,
the tender green of fern-shoots growing about the chocolate ribbon of rain-wet earth.
It was a foxglove year, sun and shadow hide-and-go-seeking among staid trees,
a robin's-egg sky flying its lac'd flag between wind-teased branches.
A foxglove year:
a time of faerie, a place of dreams
a moment of holding fast.
~ The Incledon's Cottage at Barnt Green, 12 July 1913, by J. R. R. Tolkien.
~ "The Tree of Amalion" by jan-u-wine for drawing of the same name by Tolkien.