England Haikus 16 and 17: Winston Spencer Churchill I and II


Blenheim I find coarse,
Not the fact here sprang this (last?)
Epic tale made flesh.

blenheim palace


Shockingly fragile
He flounders in wilderness

This outstanding portrait of Churchill by the Irish war artist Sir William Orpen (1878-1931), which inspired the second haiku here, has only been on public view since 2012. It is currently showing as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s Great War in Portraits exhibition. Churchill apparently regarded this as the finest portrait of himself and regarded it as the ‘not the picture of a man (but) picture of a man’s soul’.

It came at possibly the nadir of his life, having been forced to resign from the Government after the trauma and ignominy of the Gallipoli campaign. Churchill may be have been officially exonerated for his part in proceedings as First Lord of the Admirality but in this picture he looks like a man who knows he has messed up and who has nowhere to run and hide. This in turn seems to magnify the ‘epic’ connotations of his life, in particular, of course, his extraordinary dual role as redeemed and saviour between 1940-45.


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