‘Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang….’

‘Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang….’ The Ruins of Melrose Abbey, George Barret Sr (1728 - 1784)

At this time of the year, with the leaves changing colour and beginning to fall, the lines in the banner above from Sonnet LXXIII are always in my mind, especially with their hint of a Catholic outlook in Shakespeare (a much-discussed topic today, more so than it once was), through its allusion to the systematic wrecking of the abbeys and monasteries of England by Henry VIII’s criminal minions (the original model of today’s rapacious privatising oligarchs).

The poet was alluding, not to the singing birds that have flown south, but to the monks whose voices’ notes once filled the choirs stalls with golden notes.

This painting by Dublin-born artist George Barrett RA (c. 1732-1784) is of the Cistercian foundation of Melrose Abbey, in the Scottish Borders, which lingered on into the days of Cromwell, but whose ruins were later saved from final destruction largely through the action of Sir Walter Scott.

It is one of the pictures in the latest show at Dublin’s Gorry Galley, of 18th-21st Century paintings. These shows are always interesting, with a varied and unusual selection, and in some ways are an education in themselves. The show was to run over the next three weeks, depending on safety regulations.

This feast for the eye and mind will provide a much-needed break for many, and ought to be visited.

Gorry Gallery, 20 Molesworth Street, Dublin 2; email: Gorrygallery@icloud.com; tel.: 01-6795319.