On William Hogarth’s The Graham Children (1742)

Kevin Densley

In the background, the eyes of the family cat glare
scaring a caged bird.
Note the clock on the left,
surmounted by Cupid wielding a scythe,
suggesting that childhood is short;
then, there’s the boy on the right
happily playing with his music box,
apparently believing the bird
is singing along with his joyful tune
when instead its song is one of terror 
at the nearby cat.
And Daniel Graham's four children
look to have stepped into light
ahead of enveloping gloom.

To me, this ekphrastic poem mainly deals with happiness and melancholy, the inevitable passing of time, and children and pets. Having said this, each reader will interpret it in their own particular way, of course.

Kevin Densley is a poet and writer-in-general. His work has appeared in print in Australia, the UK and the US, as well as on many online venues. His fourth book-length poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, was published in late 2020 by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Recent other writing includes screenplays for films with a tertiary education purpose.

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