What do I know of art? Not anything;
So that when passers-by declare as crude
The half of it, I have no arguing,
Because I'd rather see an honest rude
That critics, skeptics, or the multitude
Dismiss for its technique, if it affirms
What truth I've witnessed and does not exclude
An aspect, and in no uncertain terms.
At base we mortal men are lowly worms
That have been given glimpses, though but rarely,
Of God's great glory, underneath which squirms
The pegged soul pinned to human squalor squarely.
These glimpses call out the artistic soul
To tell the truth blood-charged, but tell it whole.
John Brown's Body
Years ago—about the time as I was writing my Sonnets, the Art Institute had an exhibition of work by Horace Pippin which impressed me greatly. In fact I wrote a sonnet about it. Hoping to see if that poem might be available online, so that I could copy and post it, I happened upon one of a related theme which remains up at ChicagoPoetry.com. A couple more sonnets are there if you follow the link.
Pippin was much dedicated to the legacy of two historical figures in particular: John Brown and Abraham Lincoln. Rightfully so. The above painting was his representation of John Brown's trial. (Actually, I liked his woodcuts even better than his painting, but I realize that they probably don't reproduce well.) In spite of what gets taught in schools—another theme of Sonnets when it comes to poetastery, as I recall—we depend on individuals like Horace Pippin in their representations to help us retain a semblance of memory.
John Brown's interview in the Charles Town prison also came up in that conversation. You can find a good link to its transcription here.