The Ways Are Green is a dedication - a token of gratitude - for the nourishing and transformative power of nature.
The Words are from Ernest William Henley, author of the famous Invictus poem ('I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul'). Invictus is revered for its stirring invocation of courage and determination. It's an impassioned dedication to the strength of the human soul in adversity. Henley was diagnosed with tubercular arthritis from the age of twelve which necessitated the amputation of one of his legs. His critically lauded Hospital poems were written during a lengthy stay in the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, where his one remaining foot was also threatened with amputation. These works are vivid, ambigious and filled with subtle truth and courage. Henley's poem on The Ways Are Green gives us an insight into another side of his character. It shows us perhaps a counterbalancing source of inspiration for his powerful work on courage, inner strength and perserverence - i.e. his capacity for great joy and profound love of Nature. His Hopital poems conclude happily with the patient's joyful release:
"Carry me out
Into the wind and the sunshine,
Into the beautiful world."
Our poem is a continuation and acceleration of this. It's a work of bubbling joy, a cry of delight, soft fizzy laughter, a jig, unashamed revelling in the glory of Nature and therefore of being alive.
Thompson's response to Nature is as deeply passionate. He expresses it through broad brush strokes and thick paint to capture the stark, wild beauty and pulsing colours of the Canadian landscape.
It was this landscape which inspired the relatively late flourishing of Tom Thomson into becoming one of the Canada's greatest ever artists. Decorative Panel III is painted from a lower-angle vantage point, typical for Thomson, with trees and foliage densely filling the frame. Blue sky flashes through the gaps. A sense of mystery and adventure is conjured and, as with Henley's poem, a youthful sense of magic. They radiate a belief that nature holds the key, that The Ways Are Green...