Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's all fiction

A Poem, on the Supposition of an Advertisement Appearing in a Morning Paper, of the Publication of a Volume of Poems, by a Servant-Maid

Elizabeth Hands 1746–1815

The tea-kettle bubbled, the tea things were set,
The candles were lighted, the ladies were met;
The how d’ye’s were over, and entering bustle,
The company seated, and silks ceased to rustle:
The great Mrs. Consequence opened her fan,
And thus the discourse in an instant began
(All affected reserve and formality scorning):
“I suppose you all saw in the paper this morning
A volume of Poems advertised—’tis said
They’re produced by the pen of a poor servant-maid.”
“A servant write verses!” says Madam Du Bloom:
“Pray what is the subjectd—a Mop, or a Broom?”
“He, he, he,” says Miss Flounce: “I suppose we shall see
An ode on a Dishclout—what else can it be?”
Says Miss Coquettilla, “Why, ladies, so tart?
Perhaps Tom the footman has fired her heart;
And she’ll tell us how charming he looks in new clothes,
And how nimble his hand moves in brushing the shoes;
Or how, the last time that he went to May Fair,
He bought her some sweethearts of gingerbread ware.”
“For my part I think,” says old Lady Marr-joy,
“A servant might find herself other employ:
Was she mine I’d employ her as long as ’twas light,
And send her to bed without candle at night.”
“Why so?” says Miss Rhymer, displeased: “I protest
’Tis pity a genius should be so depressed!”
“What ideas can such low-bred creatures conceive?”
Says Mrs. Noworthy, and laughed in her sleeve.
Says old Miss Prudella, “If servants can tell
How to write to their mothers, to say they are well,
And read of a Sunday The Duty of Man,
Which is more I believe than one half of them can;
I think ’tis much properer they should rest there,
Than be reaching at things so much out of their sphere.”
Says old Mrs. Candour, “I’ve now got a maid
That’s the plague of my life—a young gossiping jade;
There’s no end of the people that after her come,
And whenever I’m out, she is never at home;
I’d rather ten times she would sit down and write,
Than gossip all over the town every night.”
“Some whimsical trollop most like,” says Miss Prim,
“Has been scribbling of nonsense, just out of a whim,
And, conscious it neither is witty nor pretty,
Conceals her true name, and ascribes it to Betty.”
“I once had a servant myself,” says Miss Pines,
“That wrote on a wedding some very good lines.”
Says Mrs. Domestic, “And when they were done,
I can’t see for my part what use they were on;
Had she wrote a receipt, to’ve instructed you how
To warm a cold breast of veal, like a ragout,
Or to make cowslip wine, that would pass for Champagne,
It might have been useful, again and again.”
On the sofa was old Lady Pedigree placed;
She owned that for poetry she had no taste,
That the study of heraldry was more in fashion,
And boasted she knew all the crests in the nation.
Says Mrs. Routella, “Tom, take out the urn,
And stir up the fire, you see it don’t burn.”
The tea-things removed, and the tea-table gone,
The card-tables brought, and the cards laid thereon,
The ladies, ambitious for each other’s crown,
Like courtiers contending for honours, sat down.

Source: The Longman Anthology of Poetry (2006)

Rather predictably, I'm thoroughly enjoying "Downton Abbey" on a Sunday night after having worked my way through most of the BBC adaptations of Jane Austen during recent bouts of the flu.   I do love a good costume drama and the rustle of a bustle.  The most exquisite Austen film in my view is the Sense and Sensibility TV series of 2008 starring the outstanding Hattie Morahan as my alter-ego Elinor Dashwood and Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars (wilt). It far surpasses the Ang Lee movie of 1995 with its glutinous cast.

Notwithstanding these personal preferences, I can always make space for family viewings of Glee (slightly advanced social references for my lot but, hey, the music is fabulous) and Doc Martin, but not rugby replays or historical documentaries.  It's definitely got to be fiction over fact.

Which brings me to the passing of Godfrey Philipp, producer of the classic 1960s children's television series, Adventure Island, which both my darling mother and I adored.  We hummed the songs and parrotted back to each other the closing lines whenever we parted.

It's time to say Goodbye, Goodbye, it's sad but time's the reason why…

Think of us, a little bit, 'cause we'll be thinking of you...

So 'til we meet again, be good, do all you can that's right
and we'll be back to see you same time tomorrow night.

Photos: (Top) Australian Mint, Canberra June 2011 and (bottom)


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