Day after Day 8
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On the day following the picnic Muriel got down to the task of sorting out the poems she would send to Mr Tree, for him to forward to his uncle.
She had decided to let him have a dozen poems. She readily chose eight of these, then decided to call in friends to help her choose the other four.
Notes were sent to Margaret, Jessie, Beth, Charlotte, May and Dot, (pictured above) inviting them to come and judge the poetry at her home on Friday week. Charlotte, Dot and May replied immediately, saying they would be delighted to attend. Margaret, Jessie and Beth said they were unable to attend because they were rehearsing for a concert. In her letter Margaret went on to say her parents wondered if the 18th of August was a suitable date for a combined family picnic in their garden. Muriel replied,
agreeing to the date.
When her friends arrived for the poetry afternoon Muriel handed them copies of the poems which were to be judged. She was of the opinion that if the poems were to be properly assessed
they should be read aloud, and that the four of them should take turns in reading them.
Muriel began by reading a poem entitled Human Frailty.
Weak and irresolute is man;
The purpose oftoday,
Woven with pains unto his plan
Tomorrow rends away.
The bow will bend and smart the spring,
Vice seems already slain;
But passion rudely snaps the string,
And it revives again.
Some foe to his upright intent
Finds out his weaker part;
Virtue engaged his assent,
But pleasure wins his heart
‘Tis here the folly of the wise,
Through all his art we view;
And, while his tongue the change denies,
His conscience owns it true.
Bound on a voyage of awful length
And dangers little known;
A stranger to superior strength,
Man vainly trusts his own.
But ours alone can ne’er prevail,
To reach the distant coast;
The breath of Heaven must swell the sail
Or all the toil is lost.
After reading to best effect Muriel raised her head and inquired "What do you think of it?''
"I don’t like it,” said May confidently. “It is too depressing. It's implication is that no matter how hard
we try, we will never succeed.”
“I like it,” Charlotte demurred. "There is a good choice of words. Alliteration, that sort of thing. I like
the line 'a stranger to superior strength'.''
"I'm afraid it doesn't get my vote,'' Dot said. "Unless the other poems are even more morbid I wouldn't
send this one off for consideration. It makes man out to be so weak and feeble, and even if that is so the poet doesn't have to go on about it.''
“Let’s put that one to one side as a less likely candidate,” said Muriel. "Now Charlotte, could you
please read the next one - On The Daintiest.
What is higher than a feather?
The dust my friend in driest weather.
And what is lighter than the dust I pray?
The wind that blows that dust away.
And what is lighter than the wind?
The lightness of a dandy’s friend.
And what is lighter than the last?
And now my friend you have the task.
“I don’t understand it,” said May. “What does the last line mean?”
“It means that nothing is worse than a friend who lets you down,” said Muriel. “I rather like the rhythm of this one, but it is short. Perhaps we need one with more content. Shall we put it to one side?”
“I agree that it shouldn’t be one of the four chosen,'' said Charlotte.
"Now for your turn May,'' said Muriel. "Sonnet On Madam Maliban.''
‘Twas but as yesterday, a mighty throng
Whose hearts, as one man’s heart, thy power could bow,
Amid loud shouting hailed thee “Queen of Long”
And twined sweet summer flowers around thy brow.
And those loud shouts have scarcely died away,
And those young flowers but half forgot their bloom,
When thy fair crown is changed for one of clay,
Thy boundless empire for a narrow tomb.
Sweet mistress of the Heart! we list in vain
For music now – Thy melody is o’er
Fidelio had ceas’d o’er hearts to reign,
Tommambula had slept to rise no more.
Farewell! thy sun of life too soon has set
But morning shall reflect its brightness yet.
“Personally, I like this one, but I am not sure what it means. Who was Madam Malibian, anyway?” May asked.
"I don’t know, but I suppose we could do some research and find out,'' said Charlotte.
“I think it is about a woman who dies before her time,'' said May. "A famous woman. We are left to speculate whether she will be remembered.”
“I think we should put this one in the 'promising' pile,” said Dot.
“All right,” agreed Charlotte, “and now you read the next one for us, Dot.”
This world is but a fleeting show
In grand illusion given;
The smiles of joy, the tears of woe,
Deceitful shine, deceitful flow,
There’s nothing true but heaven!
And folds the light on glory’s plume,
As fading hues of eve’n;
And love and hope and beauty’s bloom,
Are blossoms gathered for the tomb,
There’s nothing bright but heaven!
Poor wanderer of a stormy day
From wave to wave we’re driven;
And fancy’s flash and reason’s ray
Serve but to light the troubled way,/’
There’s nothing calm but heaven.
“Another depressing one,” said May. Your great grandmother must have had a very unhappy life. She sometimes sounds so sad. Is that how she was Muriel?''
“I don’t think so, but of course one never really knows. She was married and had five children - her first son died quite young - in his 30's I think. My mother, her granddaughter, spent a lot of time with her and her husband, and it was she who was picked out in her grandfather's will to inherit family things, over her uncles and aunt. Great Grandmother died fairly young - in her late 50's I think.
I suppose she had a hard life, though I never heard of anything to suggest that she was depressed. Over there you can see a portrait of her.''
Despite finding this poem depressing the girls thought it should be a contender.
Now Muriel read again, a poem called Guildford Castle
This Castle rose ‘fore Norman William’s reign,
And for its master owned a Saxon Thane.
Here gallant knights their powers oft esplay’d
To gain a smile from some obdurate maid.
And high born dames the happy visitor’s crowned
While with applauding shouts the hills resound.
Then blazon’d banners decked th’embattled walls,
And midnight revelry illumin’d the halls!
Where are they now? No more the bending lance
Sheers off the gauntlet. Now the warder’s horn
No more awakes the hunters with the morn.
No person beats the air in scutheon’d shale.
No gorgeous pageant crowds the happy gale.
The rampant nettle now o’erspreads the halls.
The mournful ivy mantled on the walls.
Sad are the ruthless ravages of time!
The bulwark’d turret flowing once sublime
Now totters to its basis, and displays,
A venerable wreck of other days.
“I like that one best of all so far,” said Charlotte. “And it fits in well with the one written for the Queen.
Perhaps we should select poems to match a theme, for instance historical places and people.''
The girls agreed to this suggestion, and Guildford Castle was accepted.
May read the next one poem which was entitled Happiness.
True happiness is not the growth of earth.
The search is useless if you seek it there.
‘Tis an exotic of celestial birth.
And only blossoms in celestial air
Sweet plant of Paradise! Its seed is sown,
For here and there a plant of heavenly mould.
It rises slow and buds but ne’re was known
To blossom here – the climate is too cold.
May all that friendship e’er can wish be thine,
All blessings earthly and all joys divine,
And oh may Heaven this blessing grant to me,
A friend sincere and may that friend be thee.
“I like the sentiment of that one,” said Dot "but we have just chosen a theme, and it doesn.t fit in with it. Let's put it on the 'perhaps' pile.''
And now it was Dot's turn again.
‘My God’ the beauty oft exclaimed
With deep impassionate tone.
But not a humble prayer, she named
The Highest and Holy One.
‘Twas not upon the bended knee
With soul upraised to heaven
Pleading with heartfelt agony
That she might be forgiven.
‘Twas not in heavenly strains to raise
To the great source of good
Her daily offerings of praise
Her song of gratitude.
But in the gay and thoughtless crowd,
And in the festive hall,
Mid scenes of mirth and mockery.
She named the Lord of all.
She called you that awful name,
When laughter loudest rang.
Oh when the flush of triumph came
On disappointments spring
The illest thing that fluttering knew,
The most unmeasured jest,
From those sweet lips profanely address
Names of the holiest.
I thought how sweet that voice would be
If speaking this prayer to heaven
My God I worship only thee
O be my sins forgiven.
“I find that quite a wonderful poem,'' said Dot. "Full of meaning which should be noted.''
“Yes, but it doesn’t really fit our historic theme,” said Charlotte. “I don’t really like it all that much
anyway. Let’s see what you think of this last one which I will read. The Forget Me Not.''
Oh lady take this drooping flower
‘Twill call to mind our parting shot
This simple plant What ‘ere my lot
In silence says, Forget me not.
Where on the ocean far away
Or tossed about in Botany Bay
When stormy winds howl round my cot
‘Twill tell thy heart, Forget me not.
Even when ‘tis withered think of me
Ah when ‘tis withered think of me
Tho’ I no more may see the spot
‘Twill whisper there – Forget me not.
And now farewell Where ‘ere I flee
All hopes and joys shall rest on thee.
Ne’re from my heart my memory blot
I’ll ask but this – Forget me not.
“I like that one,” said Muriel, "though yet again it is not linked to the theme. So far we have selected
Madame Malibian, Guildford Castle, and of course the one about Queen Victoria. Which others should we include?”
“Let’s choose the one on Happiness that we all liked, and also the poem in which the woman is chastised for using God’s name in vain,'' suggested May. "I think that gives us quite a wide range.”
“Do we all agree?'' Muriel asked.
The girls nodded in unison.
Muriel continued "We feel the depressing poems should not be included, so that leaves Forget Me Not and On The Daintiest. I really do like Forget Me Not.''
"Well she was your grandmother,'' said May. "I think we should defer to your opinion on Forget Me Not.''
There was a chorus of yesses.
And with that it was time to take tea and talk of other things.
Muriel posted the poems selected at her poetry day to Mr Tree. In reply he said he hoped to have news about them when he met her at the picnic planned for August.
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How to compile a poetry
How to compile a poetry pamphlet. i liked this very much. The poetry has a definite Victorian air, i think i liked Forget Me not best.
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A good way to decide which
A good way to decide which poems should be included.
Victorian ladies were well into writing poetry, a lot of it quite dire I imagine.
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I enjoyed reading the poetry.
I enjoyed reading the poetry. I liked the way you gave them differing oinions, too.
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Do you actually know which
Do you actually know which were published, and which not? I don't find poems of that era's rather flowery language very easy to understand, sometimes the meaning seems deliberately made a bit obscure?!
As far as I could understand, the two they felt spiriually despressing were really only acknowledging that much of this life does seem futile, the only perfection would be in the new creation, and that we are at our best weak to carry out what reforms we may really want in our lives unless we have Christ with and in us to strengthen us, but then we do know progress and joy. So I don't think they really were depressing, but maybe the unclarity made it seem so! Rhiannon
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