Watson and the Shark

Reconfiguring Copley's Masterpiece

By: - Jan 01, 2016


Watson and the Shark

While but a lad of fourteen
Cabin boy at the time
Bounder and spy
Patriot prisoner
Ethan Allen
Escorted to trial
Commented on his
Malicious and cruel disposition
Among founders of
Lloyd's of London
Served in Parliament
Later Mayor of London
Sir Brook Watson, 1st Baronet
Swam in Havana Harbor
1749 to be precise
Shark attacked twice
First mangled calf
Then munched his foot
Before third pass
Dramatically rescued
Leg amputated
Stumped about
After that when
John Singleton Copley
American expatriate
Sitting out the Revolution
Painted the misadventure
Three times in fact
Sensation when shown
Royal Academy 1778
Triumph for the artist
Bequeathed to Christ's Hospital
Now in National Gallery
With original inscription
Second without text
Pride of the MFA
Third smaller
Vertical composition
In Detroit
Here relocated
With sublime drama
To Boston Harbor
When Tall Ships
Sailed to port
American icon