COMPARING “STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING” BY ROBERT FROST TO “THE REPENTANT MAGDALENE” BY GEORGE LATOUR

. . .all artworks are comparable. . . .
~Henry John Pratt

In each, the central figure is alone,
unless, of course, one counts the “little horse”
as one might arguably do.  One might also argue that God is
present in the LaTour, although God is not
specifically represented symbolically.
Indeed, if one believes that it is the case that God is
present, it follows that God is also
present to Frost’s speaker.

Frost’s last line, repeated, is a momento mori,
as is the Magdalene’s gaze into the mirror
while she sits with her fingers on the skull
and on her own face. In both the painting and the poem,
the theme of the contemplation of death
is enhanced by darkness:
the Magdalene lit only by the single candle,
the woods only by the dim light remaining on a winter evening
after the sun has set, which in the North is not much.

The LaTour does not present us with the possibility
of moving more deeply into the scene:  the Magdalene
sits still, amazed, frozen in one moment,
surrounded by darkness;  the painted background
is a close, flat, brown wall. Frost, however, beckons us
beyond, into a darkness that we, with him,
can see between the falling snowflakes.
Like the speaker, we are tempted to go further in.

 

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