Schoolmarm says    Go to the gallery
when its next wet & there write
your essay in room 3.     five paces
to the right of the door from room 2
clearly marked between hals & rembrant
is a super picture of an aristocraticly
longnosed in wig & ruff with sword
& garters knight by van dyke.

I want you
she says to think of him as if he was
your father. imagine him at peace in his
baronial hall having Just come back from
a bloody (never use the word bloody except
properly) war. he has his right arm
lovingly around you. youre 6 at the time.
& hes telling you of all the infidels
( no never say sloshed used only by illitrates)
hes overcome. & the rich splendid booty
hes taken.

many of his ancestors - imagine
theyre yours too - hang around him admiringly
staring down at him. hes the plum. the piece of cake
youll say. is richer bolder brighter. has done in
(as your put it) more than any of them.

I want you
she says to draw a big lesson will stead
all your future when you write of the guts &
the acts behind them. the gogettingness you’ll see
in the face - could have been your dads - which
the allseeing painter has notched     seen in him.


This is an instruction from his schoolmistress to a very small boy to go to a picture gallery, find a portrait by a famous artist of one of his imaginary ancestors, & then seeing it in the terms she has already laid down for him – write an essay about it.

Here, written in his own language, he recollects some of the instructions & encouragement given him.