Monday, 19 December 2016

My Mother's Shakespearean Sonnet - A holiday poem

You might remember I wrote recently about my mother and her copy of 'The Complete Works of William Shakespeare'. I was talking about her hidden life and her love of literature.
    Her well thumbed copy includes all his plays and his sonnets and a few other surprises.
    As I opened the cover of this 1312 page tome the first thing that fell out was a fading paper, brown and ragged at the edges, containing a 'Lamington' recipe. Unusual place for a recipe I thought.
    Further on was a set of newspaper clippings - all poems of a spiritual or "bring home the diggers safely" mode - evidence of her devout Catholic upbringing. And then, there, a few pages on, was an envelope, speckled with brown stains like a chickens egg containing a rose pressed and wrapped in tissue, perfectly preserved. Suddenly my mother was with me again. She, along with many women of her generation, had a real love of their rose bushes. The rich cocoa brown of the petals are velvety, almost edible.
    Finally, further into the plays, around Richard III, was the piece de resistance. A poem she'd written giving an account of a disastrous holiday she and her girlfriends had taken, written in sonnet form. This was the mid 1940s; she's about 26/27; the war has just ended; she hasn't yet met my father (as far as I can tell). It's so faded it has almost disappeared. I had to use a magnifying glass to deciper it.


Eileen Hill's Poem in the style of a Shakesperaean sonnet.

Dear friends our tale will now begin
Of how we spent our leave
Of mud and flood and more be-gud
You'll hear and with me grieve.

We left the town one Saturday
Our joyful hopes were mounting
We little thought those clear blue skies
Would soon spurt like a fountain.

We hauled our three selves in the bus
And sallied to our cottage
To find too soon ourselves marooned
With nought but mess of pottage.

Our first night brought a cyclone in
The house supports were quivering
And underneath our scanty shorts
Our own pins set up shivering.

When dawn broke with a watery smile
We thought twould change our courses
When o'er verandah rail we spied
The heads of eight great horses.

We stamped and yelled to scare them off
They snorted but the harder
We must explain our cruel shame
They cut us off from larder.

On fifth day when our hopes were sunk
All chance of suntan gone
O'er garden gate at three twenty eight
Our first faint sunbeam shone.

We danced about in great delight
The air filled with our cackle
We even thought at that late hour
The slimy brine to tackle.

Gone all thoughts of Noah's Ark
Gone all thoughts of drowning
Though tails still wet we had high hopes
For one full week of browning.

Three full days of sun we had
Of surf and swim and beach
But now alas has come to pass
More rain -- I've lost my speech.

A thunder storm we thought at first
And tried to spy blue patches
But storms don't last for days on end
While mushroom round us hatches.

We've reached the end of all our food
We've reached the end of tether
Tomorrow night we're going home
Before more breaks in weather.

(c)   Eileen Hill 1946