Friday, August 6, 2010

By The Sea: "Peace -- A Study"

C. S. Calverley (1831-1884) wrote verse parodies and light verse.  The following poem is often found in anthologies of "comic" verse, and the clerk in the poem is thus regarded as a comic figure.  But I beg to differ.  I confess that all my sympathies lie with the clerk, and that I feel nothing but goodwill toward him.  This no doubt puts me at cross-purposes with "authorial intention" and, moreover, suggests that I am slow on the uptake.  That may be so.  But I like the clerk.  And I feel a kinship with him.

                     A study

He stood, a worn-out City clerk --
  Who'd toil'd, and seen no holiday,
For forty years from dawn to dark --
   Alone beside Caermarthen Bay.

He felt the salt spray on his lips;
   Heard children's voices on the sands;
Up the sun's path he saw the ships
   Sail on and on to other lands;

And laugh'd aloud.  Each sight and sound
   To him was joy too deep for tears;
He sat him on the beach, and bound
   A blue bandana round his ears,

And thought how, posted near his door,
   His own green door on Camden Hill,
Two bands at least, most likely more,
   Were mingling at their own sweet will

Verdi with Vance.  And at the thought
   He laugh'd again, and softly drew
That Morning Herald that he'd bought
   Forth from his breast, and read it through.

(An aside: it has been suggested that line 10 is intended to be an echo of the final line of Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood":  "Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.")

                                          John Brett (1831-1902)
         "The British Channel Seen From The Dorsetshire Cliffs" (1871)

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