Stanley Spencer was inspired to paint this by reading Donne's Sermons, a book given him by his friends and fellow students at the Slade, Jacques and Gwen (Darwin) Raverat. "One had been brought up with the notion that heaven was, if not all enveloping, at least straight ahead. In this picture [Stan] told me, he had the idea that heaven was to one side: walking along the road he turned his head and looked into Heaven," Gilbert Spencer.
"Sleep sleep, old Sun, thou canst not have repast
As yet, the wound thou took'st on friday last;
Sleepe then, and rest; the world may beare thy stay,
A better Sun rose before thee to day,
Who, not content to'enlighten all that dwell
On the earths face, as thou, enlightned hell,
And made the darke fires languish in that vale,
As, at thy presence here, our fires grow pale.
Whose body having walk'd on earth, and now
Hasting to Heaven, would, that he might allow
Himselfe unto all stations, and fill all,
For these three daies become a minerall;
Hee was all gold when he lay downe, but rose
All tincture, and doth not alone dispose
Leaden and iron wills to good, but is
Of power to make even sinfull flesh like his.
Had one of those, whose credulous pietie
Thought, that a Soule one might discerne and see
Goe from a body, 'at this sepulchre been,
And, issuing from the sheet, this body seen,
He would have justly thought this body a soule,
If not of any man, yet of the whole."
Poems John Donne, 1573-1631