Monthly Archives: April 2014

Turner – Verse and Art

Turner poem manuscript

Turner poem manuscript

I’ve already commented on the relationship, or juxtaposition, of poetry and art.  It turns out that this has been going on for longer than I supposed in Teignmouth.

In 1811 Joseph Mallord William Turner did a West Country tour.  His sketchbook was accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest in 1856.  Interestingly though, interspersed with his drawings sixty-nine pages contain verses which Turner intended as a commentary for publication with ‘Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England’.

This particular verse refers to time spent around this area.  For more information follow the link at the end.

Draft Artist Notes
(JMW Turner 1811)

Totness the port where hangs the neglected bar
This once resounding shore now silent is thro war
Yet gleams afar by her blanched sails
And straining pendants which the eye[?] regales
amidst the mass of richness floating round
Did hurt the sight from quantity till a bound
striving to find by happyness[?] coming hour
The West country[?] but allows that power
Towring above the long inclined[?] space
Where Dawlish pastures fair and watring[?] place
Tiegnmouth and Babicombe and Ore
Refer[?] in majestic greatness bleak Dart moor
Whose upmost Crags like broken ridges rest drest
in sombre majesty oft capt in cloudy vest


Want to know more?  Checkout:  Turner and Teignmouth


River beach, Teignmouth

River beach, Teignmouth

The last few posts have been about specific events or aspects of Teignmouth.  Today is about ‘impression’. What does Teignmouth mean to different people? What is the image the town, its history, its aura, its essence conveys?  Charles Causley wrote about a poem about Teignmouth which will feature in a future blog. We have already had a view from Patrick Wolf.  Today another poem by Don Pearson giving a different perspective on the town.



(For Barbara Sealey-Bowers)

Seemingly from nothing,
on my first descent,
the town below was revealed
on an azure wash
of sky and tranquil sea,
framed by water
and warm sunlit hills.

Only later, much later,
did I notice the sea wolves
ravening beneath and above the surface,
fattening amidst sand eels.

Here sits a ragged soldier,
leg lost at Waterloo,
begging from the gentry.
Here also, a bare-legged cockle-woman, once sturdy,
now hunched and hungry herself,
she sells her wares to the boat-builders.
Even now, she awaits her man,
drowned centuries ago
hunting the cod off Newfoundland.

Elsewhere, in all but place,
hardly touching the same earth,
the landowner and his lady
parade the beach
and their wealth.

A chill mist rises,
Reabsorbing the wraiths
into the water and the earth.
Their clamour for recognition
And for discrimination dies away,
Leaving only traces of themselves
in their worn and helpless progeny.

And the salt stays dissolved in the water
While the foam’s borne away by the winds
And the ghosts of the past live forever,
While the mist on the river remains.

Don Pearson 13th July 2013


See also:  Teignmouth by Patrick Wolf


The Parson and The Clerk

Charles Causley

Charles Causley

Today’s blog introduces another poet with links to Teignmouth – Charles Causley – who died in 2003.  He wrote a number of poems related to Teignmouth which will feature in future blogs.  I have chosen this one, ‘The Parson and the Clerk’ (not his most well-known), because of its most recent association.  Several years ago it was set to music by David Haines and was performed this year by the South Devon Singers in their concert ‘By The Wild Sea Wall’ during Teignmouth’s Classic Music Festival.  The theme of the poem also echoes an earlier posting here. If you want to know more, follow the links at the end of the poem.

The Parson and the Clerk

(Charles Causley)

The Clerk stands in the ocean,
The Parson on the land,
From top to toe to fingertips
Red as the Devon sand

The people of Teignmouth say
(And they say it at Shaldon, too)
That the Parson and the Clerk
Are sandstone through and through,

And the story of how they came home
Rather more drunk than dry
From a night with the Bishop of Exeter
Is nothing more than a lie

And there never was a storm
As they drove beside the bay
That washed the horses to Babbacombe
And the Parson and Clerk away

Though when the morning came
Along the salted shore
There stood two pillars of stone
That never stood there before

And often some folk say,
If you stand quite still and hark,
The Parson is taking a service
With responses from the Clerk

But only the Parson and Clerk
Know the truth of the tale
And gently both of them wink an eye
As they stand on the sand and the shale

Says the Parson to the Clerk,
`Perhaps it is just as well
For the sake of their peace of mind
That they think we are stone and shell

`And whether the day is bright
Or the night is wild and dark
Shall we let them believe it is so?`
`Amen`, says the Clerk


Want to know more?  Checkout the following links:

Charles Causley
Charles Causley in Song
The Parson and Clerk

Related verse:The Smugglers Song

Cool Dudes

Street art in Teignmouth

Street art in Teignmouth

Back from history to the present day. One of the features of the Poetry Festival was an art exhibit at the TAAG centre (Teignmouth Arts Action Group) in which each item was accompanied by an interpretive poem.

The idea of linking art and poetry is interesting and I‘ll come back to it again in a later post about the Teignmouth TRAIL. The interpretation of both is a personal thing – the eyes and ears of beholders often attach different meanings to visual and auditory images. Seeing both together can be revealing.

Art in Teignmouth though isn’t confined to TAAG or to the various galleries around. There is a growing flurry of ‘street art’ filling empty spaces, and I don’t mean graffiti but some stunning imagery. This poem is about one such piece of street art to be found on a back-street wall in Somerset Place.

Cool Dudes

Cool dudes,
Impaled in parade on a Teignmouth wall,
calling the wall to life.
Coal black on chalk white,
parked in the heart of street art culture,
not defiling the place
but defining that space
with your imagery dance.

Cool dudes,
caged on the page of a Teignmouth wall,
all snapshots of life.
Ink black on paper white.
In a frozen moment of time you’re captured,
airbrushed in place,
fleshed into shape
in mannequined bromance.

Cool dudes,
corralled on the marl of a Teignmouth wall,
tall shadows of life.
Ebony black on ivory white,
posed in the clothes that go with the posture,
wearing that space
to stare in our face
with your silhouette glance.

In Memoriam

We come up-to-date with a recent piece of verse by Tacy Rickard, but its roots are in history.  It recalls the death of four young girls on the Teignmouth Barr in 1734.  The sandbars around the mouth of the Teign estuary have always been treacherous, as this story testifies, though today we have the National Coastwatch and the Royal National Lifeboat Institute to help if people get into trouble.  The four young girls had no-one in 1734.

In Memoriam

Tacy Rickard, March 2014

“Elizabeth Vicary Mary Potter Mary Vicary Mary Brewer
all four drowned upon the Barr June 19th 1734”
An inked entry in the burial register,
Stark epitaph among the simple list of ageless faceless names

In the curate’s hand, knowing the fullness of the families’ grief,
on the third day, standing by the graves.
That hand had cupped their heads with water,
water of life, water of death.
Secret hopes and passions doused
Did some young men sigh and quietly quench their dreams?

Three known to each other from birth
On the edge of womanhood
A younger child in tow.

Did their mothers warn them to take care?
Ask Liz to take Mary from under her feet?
And gather shellfish from the shore?

The waiting pot bubbles on the hearth;
The wind changes, river thrusting through, breaking the waves,
The bar shifts, tossing the harvest into the tide

“Elizabeth Vicary Mary Potter Mary Vicary Mary Brewer
all four drowned upon the Barr June 19th 1734”

Want to know more?  Checkout:  Four Young Girls


Pasteur Brown and his Duck

My last post was a poem from 1690.  Jumble the numbers and you arrive at 1906, five years before Wilfred Owen first came to Teignmouth.  This poem ‘Pasteur Brown and his Duck’ appeared in the 2nd February edition of the Teignmouth Post of that year.  It was written by a remarkable man – Thomas Henry Aggett – who was dubbed ‘The Railway Poet’, in a style reminiscent of Pam Ayres.  I discovered it in a pamphlet from the Teignmouth & Shaldon Heritage Centre.

The poem is purportedly based on a true incident involving someone called Pasteur Brown who lived in French Street, Teignmouth, (although I can not find a census reference to him).  At the time this incident occurred he was working at the building of Barnpark Terrace, either as a mason or as a mason’s labourer.

I am trying to track down a copy of Thomas Aggett’s book ‘Vagabond Verses’ so if anyone can let me have access to a copy that would be great.


Pasteur Brown and his Duck

One Pasteur Brown, like Browning was
At times somewhat obscure
But Browning wrote perhaps above
Our heads in literature.
While Brown, eccentric Nature’s ways
And freaks could not endure.

Now Pasteur had a small back yard
And one Minorca hen,
Quite proud he felt at morn to get
A fresh egg now and then;
And he could argue fowls with twice
Ten thousand Cornish men.

That hen, desiring to increase
Brown’s happiness and store,
Got broody, but alas! Her eggs
Were gone, excepting four;
So Pasteur went to Farmer Elms
And bought a dozen more.

“Fine eggs” quoth Brown, “which I could teach
My Grandmother to suck”.
So Farmer Elms put in the bag
An extra egg for luck,
And twelve of them were of the hen
And one was of the duck.

Brown sat his hen on thirteen eggs,
The hen began to cluck;
Within due course to thirteen chicks
There never was such luck!
And twelve of them were of the hen
And one was of the duck.

This puzzled Pasteur Brown and made
His brain too blunt to think,
For when he placed the water dish
Where all his stock might drink
This duckling bodily went in
By toppling o’er the brink.

Brown thought the missing link at last
Was either hatched or born,
But he felt more astonished when
He fed them night and morn,
And found, while twelve fed properly
One shovelled up his corn.

Now Pasteur such amazing greed
As this could not endure,
So he consulted with his friends
If best to kill or cure,
And they advised a cure – advice
Apparently quite pure.

Brown sought the duckling in the yard,
There he took by the neck it up,
And pared its bill to chick-beak shape,
(Enough to bring poor Becket up),
“I’ve stop’d your “shovelling corn” grinned Brown
“Now like the rest you’ll peck it up”.


Want to know more?  Checkout: Thomas Henry Aggett



Upon Tingmouth

Galleons from Beachy Head before the sacking of Teignmouth

Galleons from Beachy Head before the sacking of Teignmouth

What a coup!  I’ve found the earliest poetic reference to Teignmouth so far.

This was written by the Reverend Philip Avant in 1690 in sympathy with the people of Teignmouth following the sacking of the town by the French fleet in July of that year.

I have just referred to it as “Upon Tingmouth” but its full title is:

Upon Tingmouth, a Sea-Port Town in Devon;
lately burnt by the French (viz.) in the Month of July, 1690

O Doleful July! Welcome heretofore,
When fraught with joys thou didst approach each door;

Fatal of late to Tingmouth! Now thou hast
Remov’d those Joys vouchsaf’d in Ages past.

A grateful Season, when the the joyful field
Afforded Food, plenty each house did yield,

The Seas vouchsaf’d Provisions heretofore,
But now the French have wasted all her store.

She which once flourish’d, now in ashes lies,
Not like these many days again to rise;

What was the fate of Troy in ruins laid,
When Priam’s Palace was to Greeks betrayed?

Sad without doubt, o’erwhelmed with grief and tears,
Devour’d by Flames, a doleful sight appears.

Such was the face of Tingmouth, such her fate,
When she sustain’d devouring flames of late;

Whenas she felt the Fury of the Gauls,
Sad is our Fate, when flames devour our walls.

Alas! how many destitute of Home
Wander that they under some roof do come!


Want to know more?  Checkout Philip Avant