The po­etry of An­drew A. Ge­orge

The Compass - - OPINION -

Dou­glas Ge­orge de­scribes his late fa­ther with words such as wise, car­ing, hon­est, self­less, re­mark­able, com­pas­sion­ate and philo­soph­i­cal. “His un­der­stand­ing of is­sues, large and small, lo­cal, na­tional and in­ter­na­tional, were tem­pered by an all­too-un­com­mon sense of rea­son­ing and bal­ance.” He had “strong community ties, re­spect for elders and love of fam­ily.”

I didn’t know any­thing about the se­nior man un­til two weeks ago when I spied a new book in a lo­cal nick­nack shop, “There’s Joy in Tin­kling Brooks! The Po­etry of An­drew A. Ge­orge.” Since then, I’ve been read­ing it for per­sonal plea­sure and profit.

Lived in New Har­bour

The facts of Ge­orge’s life can be quickly told. He was born in 1918. He lived in New Har­bour. His for­mal ed­u­ca­tion ended with Grade 6. At 16, be started keep­ing a daily jour­nal, de­scrib­ing “what life was like in ru­ral New­found­land when he was a teenager.”

Ac­cord­ing to Dou­glas, prior to the Sec­ond World War, his fa­ther “was a fit young man who loved to swim and play hockey. He was a fish­er­man, woods­man and one who helped mem­bers of the fam­ily and community with labour-in­ten­sive work … He took part in school plays and a myr­iad of other so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties in sup­port of church, school and lodges.”

Join­ing the Royal Navy in 1939, he was one of the “First Two Hun­dred.” Dou­glas states, “His life was changed for­ever.” He was af­flicted with malaria and con­tracted sand­fly fever. He was plagued by tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, asthma and chronic ob­struc­tive pul­monary dis­ease.

Dou­glas can’t imag­ine how his fa­ther, “un­der the harsh post-war life he lived … stayed so benev­o­lent and such a lov­ing and car­ing hus­band … and fa­ther.”

An­drew and his wife, Dorothy Leah Ge­orge of Dildo, raised a fam­ily of five chil­dren.

Most of Dou­glas’ pa­ter­nal mem­o­ries are “of him fight­ing for his next breath.”

‘In the coun­try’

De­spite his dis­abil­ity, An­drew ran a busi­ness, Ge­orge’s Con­fec­tionary, which dis­played a gi­ant ice cream cone. On his so-called good days, “he loved to ‘go in the coun­try’ and flick a line for the elu­sive speck­led trout … or travel … for the thrill of salmon fish­ing. He rel­ished those days, how­ever few, and so did we,” Dou­glas re­mem­bers.

Ge­orge died in 1973 at the rel­a­tively young age of 54.

Be­tween the brack­ets of the years of his life, he wrote a va­ri­ety of home­spun po­ems, which his fam­ily have now col­lated for pos­ter­ity’s sake. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive ex­cerpts fol­low.

Ge­orge was happy to be home af­ter the War: “I know there is no other place on earth / Where one can sleep such peace­ful nights away.”

He fondly re­calls his grand­fa­ther, “bowed with the years, his har­vest nearly ripe, / The aged sits and burns a sooth­ing pipe, / And soft the fire­light play­ing round his chair / Ac­cen­tu­ates his brow and gray­ing hair.”

Track­ing “a boggy marsh foot­path,” he hears “ex­cited twit­ter­ings just ahead.” A sparrow “flit­ted here and there, and in a dither … / Sur­veyed me while ex­cit­edly, ‘Sweet weather,’ / Is­sued from her throat.”

The New Har­bour Bar­rens cap­ture his de­scrip­tive pow­ers: “we mo­tored far along a lonely road, / A way de­void of beauty, where no tree / Graced its grey sides to break the dull monotony / Of mile af­ter mile of bar­ren land.”

He re­calls with ev­i­dent fond­ness New Har­bour’s out­door rink: “rigged up new goals, elec­tric light / So prac­tice could be done at night — / Just goes to show it’s not too late / If men and boys co-op­er­ate.”

He writes about the time New Har­bour played host to Ho­peall’s hockey team: “yet, win­ning the game is not al­ways the best / Way to bring out the best in a team; for the test / Of good sports­man­ship is to play fair the game / Then: win, lose or draw, you’ll keep your good name.”

He ap­plauds the tenac­ity of “two trees on the edge of the gar­den lot / Where the wind played bois­ter­ously … / Per­haps their roots were more firmly planted / Not fickle, as the hu­man species … / Only the trees re­main steady: steady as a rock.”

He re­mem­bers his wife while she’s away on hol­i­day: “I am not one, dear, I am two; / For now I see that part of me / Has gone with you.”

He rem­i­nisces about a polar bear that showed up at Old Shop “and stole two lambs one morn­ing fair be­fore the folks were up.”

Dou­glas re­marks on “passed-on knowl­edge (that) has re­in­forced my child­hood mem­o­ries and let me put a name to the qual­i­ties that I, as a thought­less teenager, could not at the time com­pre­hend or ap­pre­ci­ate.” This book is a last­ing fam­ily trib­ute to one of our lesser-known po­ets. Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be reached

at­bur­tonj@nfld.net

An­drew A. Ge­orge

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