Playing the lyre

In one of his sermons in Strength to Love, Martin Luther King mentions George Frederic Watts’s painting ‘Hope’, which depicts a blindfolded woman astride a globe, plucking at her lyre’s remaining single string. G. K. Chesterton once commented that the first thought on anyone seeing it is that it should be called ‘Despair’, but Watts’s painting rather eloquently speaks of hope in despair. With all but one of the strings snapped, the woman, whilst clearly unspeakably sad, continues to play her lyre. She thus evokes an important aspect of the human condition, namely people’s ability, at their lowest point, to sense and feel a single string of hope that keeps them going when all else is failing.

George Frederic Watts, ‘Hope’

George Frederic Watts (1817–1904), ‘Hope’

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