Monthly Archives: July 2014

Fragments of a Descriptive Poem

Winthrop Mackworth Praed

Winthrop Mackworth Praed

Today’s post moves on thirty years or so from Jane Cave Winscom. Those of you who know something about Teignmouth’s history may be surprised that I’ve made no mention so far in this blog of Winthrop Mackworth Praed.  So today is the day of rectification!

The Praed family (Praed street in London is named after his uncle who founded the Praed bank) lived at Lower Bitton House and played a significant role in Teignmouth life in the late eighteenth, early nineteenth centuries.  Winthrop was described as having a ‘brilliant’ career through Eton, Cambridge, the bar and then as an MP but he died young, aged only 37; and he wrote a considerable amount of verse much of which, in retrospect, could be described as a balladic commentary on the life of the social echelon in which he moved.

There are a couple of pieces which specifically relate to Teignmouth. This first is written, it seems, almost as a childhood reminiscence of the time he spent around here.  You can imagine the first stanza as a description of the view from the Ness whilst the second stanza describes the town.  The lines “There beamed upon the river side A shady dwelling-place” describe his home at Lower Bitton House.

Fragments of a Descriptive Poem
(Winthrop Mackworth Praed)

And now
He stood upon the beetling brow
Of a huge cliff, and marked beneath
The sea-foam fling its hoary wreath
Upon the shore, and heard the waves
Run howling through their hollow caves.
Far on the right old Ocean lay;
But he had hushed his storm to-day,
And seemed to murmur a long sigh,
A melancholy melody,
As if his mourning had begun
For what he yesternight had done:
And on the left, in beauteous pride,
The river poured his rushing tide;
Fanned, as he came, by odorous gales
From grassy hills and mossy vales,
And gardens, where young nature set
No mask upon her features yet,
And sands which were as smooth as stone,
And woods whose birth no eye had known,
And rocks, whose very crags seemed bowers,
So bright they were with herbs and flowers.

He looked across the river stream;
A little town was there,
O’er which the morning’s earliest beam
Was wandering fresh and fair;
No architect of classic school
Had pondered there with line and rule;
And, stranger still, no modern master
Had wasted there his lath and plaster;
The buildings in strange order lay,
As if the streets had lost their way,
Fantastic, puzzling, narrow, muddy,
Excess of toil from lack of study,
Where Fashion’s very newest fangles
Had no conception of right angles.
But still about that humble place
There was a look of rustic grace;
‘Twas sweet to see the sports and labours
And morning greetings of good neighbours,
The seamen mending sails and oars,
The matrons knitting at the doors,
The invalids enjoying dips,
The children launching tiny ships,
The beldames clothed in rags and wrinkles
Investigating periwinkles.
A little further up the tide,
There beamed upon the river side
A shady dwelling-place:
Most beautiful! upon that spot,
Beside that echoing wave,
A Fairy might have built her grot,
An Anchorite his grave.
The river, with its constant fall,
Came daily to the garden wall,
As if it longed, but thought it sin,
To look upon the charms within;
Behind, majestic mountains frowned,
And dark rich groves were all around,
And just before the gate there stood
Two trees which were themselves a wood;
Two lovely trees, whose clasp)ing forms
Were blended still in calms and storms
Like sisters, who have lived together
Through every change of Fortune’s weather,
United in their bliss or sorrow,
Their yesterday, and their to-morrow, —
So fond, so faithful, —you would wonder
To see them smile or weep asunder.

(March, 1826)

Want to know more?  Check out:

Winthrop Mackworth Praed

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AUTHOR’S BATHING AT TEIGNMOUTH, FOR THE HEAD-ACHE

Book cover - original

Book cover – original

The pendulum of poetry swings back and forth through time.  Today we go back to the late 18th century.  But more than that, I said a few posts ago that I needed to find more female poets.

The poet today is Jane Cave Winscom who was born in 1754 and who published an anthology entitled “Poems on Various Subjects, Entertaining, Elegiac, and Religious”.  She is also known for her poetry on pain.  She suffered from what is now diagnosed as migraines and as an attempt to cure these she indulged in the then popular past-time of sea-bathing, for which Teignmouth was becoming a popular resort.  This poem describes one such sea-bathing experience in Teignmouth.

 

AUTHOR’S BATHING AT TEIGNMOUTH, FOR THE HEAD-ACHE

Whilst on the beach I stood, my courage fainted,
And busy thought a thousand horrors painted!
Stranger to each, and each to me was strange,
With none a kind ‘Good-morrow’ could exchange;
With pensive mind, whilst tears my cheeks bedewed,
Fierce Boreas, and a nymph immerged I viewed;
Langour and pain her timid looks express,
As by the women carried in to dress.
‘Ah, me!’, I cried, ‘to plunge into the main
Should I presume, this weak afflicted brain
Will grow deranged, and I shall die with pain!’
But some kind fair, impressed with sympathy,
Consoled my grief, and bade my sorrows flee;
Of whom, to practise what themselves had taught,
One plunged into the sea, with courage fraught;
Near thrice twice-told she dipped quite undismayed,
And then ascends to dress, nor asks for aid.
I chid my fears — my cowardice was nipped,
And next below the wave my head was dipped:
A strange sensation — in a second o’er,
And I quite braced, much happier than before;
When I bathe next, I’ll have two dippings more.

O Neptune! should thy waves propitious prove,
And once this grievous malady remove,
Which long has baffled each physician’s art,
Moved by the impulse of a grateful heart,
I’ll chant thy virtues — sue the tuneful Nine,
And mighty Jove, to lend his aid divine
To fill me with devout poetic fire,
While I to Neptune tune the grateful lyre!

 

Want to know more?  Check out these links:

Jane Cave Winscom …..
Taking the Waters at Teignmouth …..

Who were the Tolpuddle Martyrs?

One of the things I love about Teignmouth is that it punches above its weight.  For such a small town there is a plethora of happenings – organized, spontaneous, semi-spontaneous.  Last Sunday was no exception.  The first ever Tolpuddle Freedom Hike arrived in Teignmouth.

Tolpuddle Martyrs

Tolpuddle Martyrs

In commemoration of the 180th anniversary of the jailing of the Tolpuddle Martyrs a group of people were marching from Plymouth to Tolpuddle in Dorset to arrive in time for the Martyrs’ Festival.  People joined and left the walk en route.  I took the opportunity to walk with them on Monday morning guiding them along what would have been the original old route between Teignmouth and Dawlish.

I wrote this poem as a tribute to journey – the journey the modern-day pilgrims made with Teignmouth at its mid-point; the journey the martyrs made as criminals to Australia and returning to the UK as free men; and the journey society has made since then thanks to the convictions of people like the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

The poem is a sort of modern-day ballad.

Who were the Tolpuddle Martyrs?

Duh!

Everyone knows the Tolpuddle martyrs;
a defining part of our history,
farmers fighting for liberty,
feudal victims of iniquity,
preluding the right to be free.

In eighteen hundred and thirty-four
beneath the boughs of the sycamore
they swore an oath of secrecy.
Six men were taken for that perfidy,
shackled, deported to Australian shores.

But the people rose up
and the people marched
and parliament baulked, crumbled, gave way.
The martyrs returned, safe home once more
and social justice triumphed that day.

Everyone knows the Tolpuddle martyrs.
But do they?
Go on, give me their names.
We refrain the headline.  We relinquish the depth.

They left yesterday.
From Plymouth to Teignmouth
they had marched so far –
the modern-day pilgrims,
grimacing with pain from blistered feet.
But proud of their feat.
They had a story to tell
and I now know the names.

George and James Loveless – brothers –
and two other James – Hammett and Brine,
then Thomas Standfield,
and, last in line, his son John.
These are the names that live on.
Martyrs’ names that live on.

Want to know more?  Check out:

Tolpuddle Martyrs for historical stuff

The poem is part of the “Cataclysm of Catechism” cycle.  First draft of the complete cycle can be seen at this site

 

The Devonshire Boys Courage

Galleons from Beachy Head before the sacking of Teignmouth

Galleons from Beachy Head before the sacking of Teignmouth

At the beginning of April I was excited to have discovered a poem “Upon Tingmouth” from 1690 describing the plunder of Teignmouth by ships from the French fleet.

It turns out that that event was also recorded in a ballad called “The Devonshire Boys’ Courage” which was sung to a tune called ‘Liggan Water’, a title referring to an Irish stream.  (From ‘Devon. Its moorland stream and coasts’ by Lady Rosalind Northcote, 1908).

The ballad formed part of the collection of ‘Roxburghe Ballads’.

The Devonshire Boys Courage

Brave Devonshire Boys made haste away
When news did come from Tinmouth-bay,
The French were landed in that town
And Treacherously had burnt it down.

Whento the Town they did draw near,
The French did straightways disappear;
Because that they had then beat down
And basely burnt poor Tinmouth-town.

On Haldon-Hill they did design
To draw their men up in a line;
But Devonshire Boys did make them run;
When once they did discharge a Gun.

Brave Blew coat Boys did watch them so,
They to no other place dare go;
For if they had returned again
I’m sure the Frenchmen had been slain.

********************************************

Let Monsieur then do what he can,
We’ll still Reign Masters o’er the Main
Old England’s Right upon the Sea
In spight of France maintain’d shall be.

No Seaman fears to lose his Blood,
To justifie a Cause so good;
To fight the French, who have begun
With burning down poor Tinmouth-town.

The Cornish Lads will lend a hand,
And Devonshire Boys will with them Band,
To pull the pride of Monsieur down,
Who basely burn’d poor Tinmouth-town.

Want to know more?  Check out:

Roxburghe Ballads …..
Upon Tingmouth …..
The French and Teignmouth …..

 

Pay Her Homage

Artefacts of the Church Rocks Wreck

Artefacts of the Church Rocks Wreck

Thanks to Lin Watson of the Teign Heritage Centre for digging this out for me.  This poem was hidden in a slim (very) file of poetry which contained no references so it’s unclear why the poems were written and how they ended up in the Heritage Centre.

The poem was inspired by the Church Rocks Wreck – the wreckage of a 16th century ship about 200m out to sea off Eastcliff.

 

Pay Her Homage
(Cathie Whatmough)

The mighty wrath of a turbulent night, sparing not a soul,
Cries unheard from shores nearby, drowning hopes and fears.
The enigma of a tragedy passed, concealed within the shallows.

Enshrouded in the ocean bed, she lies in deepest slumber,
pieces of a greater form, the flow of time suppressing.
Those bygone days and distant lives shall all now be perceived.

High above, a shaft of light, the weather is permitting,
The beauty of her tranquil state, revealing all with ease.
The search begins, they touch and see. Oh! This precious gift of wisdom!

Now, let her rest and pay her homage.  Peace with all at last.

 

Want to know more?  See Church Rocks Wreck

Devon Blue

Alberta in her V.A.D. uniform, 1917

Alberta in her V.A.D. uniform, 1917

One of the curious things about a blog like this is the incidental references and stories that you turn up.

Whilst I was doing research on the previous post about Thomas Aggett I came upon a reference to the Reverend Edwin Emmanuel Bradford, born in Torquay, who has been described as ‘a leading gay poet of the early 20th century’.   He was part of an informal group of English “Uranian” poets and he produced copious amounts of homoerotic poetry.  Unfortunately there is no connection I can find with Teignmouth so you’ve been deprived of the opportunity of Teignmouthian homoerotica.  I wonder whether the Church’s reaction today would be any different from a 100 years ago to a headline like “Gay Teignmouth vicar publishes homoerotic poetry”!

But I did find another connection, though still tenuous, with Teignmouth – a poet called Alberta Vickridge.  She was a northern lass who came to Torquay in the middle of the First World War.  She worked for the Voluntary Aid Department which helped shape some of the war poetry she wrote.  She also won a Bardic Chair at the 1924 Eisteddfod!  The tenuous connection is her poem “Devon Blue” which makes a reference to Teignmouth.  It also occurred to me when I discovered her that only two of my previous posts have featured works by female writers – surely a damning historical indictment.

I must try to find more work by female poets.  Meanwhile, here is Devon Blue:

DEVON BLUE
(Alberta Vickridge)

Every morning when I awake,
Greeting day and life anew,
First, a cup of tea I take
From a set of Devon-blue.

Cup and saucer, pot and plate –
On each separate piece I view
Seagulls on a rock, sedate,
‘Gainst a sky of Devon-blue.

Even so in mildTorbay,
Dawlish, Brixham, Teignmouth too,
Deeply sapphire gleams the day
From a sea of Devon-blue.

Though my Northern home is far
From the seas and skies I knew,
Brighter all my mornings are
For a glimpse of Devon-blue.

I forget how mist and rain
There as here change heaven’s hue,
Living happy hours again
In a world of Devon-blue.

 

Want to know more?  Check out Alberta Vickridge