Are you haunted by a few lines from a poem and want help in finding the rest of the words? Do you have a favourite verse you’d like to share with us? Or have you been writing poetry for years and would like others to read your work? If the answer is “Yes”
Areaderfrom Devon set a puzzle for me recently when he sent me a poem entitled “My Love Hath My Heart, and I Have His” by Sir Philip Sidney. Donald Hodgetts was intrigued by the poem and its author and wanted to know more about both. Although familiar with the poem, I didn’t know much about its author but I have been able to find this information.
Sir Philip Sidney was born at Penshurst Place in Kent in 1554 and educated at Shrewsbury School and Christ Church, Oxford. He then travelled through Europe for three years becoming proficient in several languages, making many influential friends and gaining valuable insight into European politics.
In 1576 Elizabeth I made him her cupbearer but Sidney wanted to be more than a courtier and hoped to be given an active political role. He was a keen supporter of the Protestant League but his talents were largely overlooked by the Queen who was reluctant to upset the balance of power between France and Spain. Thwarted in his political ambitions, Sidney turned his attention to writing, producing such important work as “Arcadia”, “Astrophel and Stella” and “The Defence of Poesy”.
He married Frances, the daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham in September 1583 and they had a daughter who was named after the Queen. In July 1585 Sidney finally got his first important appointment when he was made joint master of ordnance with his uncle. The Queen had been persuaded to support the Dutch against Spain and Sidney was made governor of Flushing and given a company of cavalry to command. Whilst leading a cavalry charge against the Spanish at the Battle of Zutphen in September 1586, he was wounded in the thigh and died on 17th October at Arnhem after the wound became infected. Whilst lying wounded he is reputed to have given his water to a fellow soldier saying, “Your need is greater than mine”. His body was taken home and buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The poem that Donald sent me comes from Sidney’s long heroic prose romance “Arcadia” written in 1580. Arcadia is a shepherdess who is speaking of her love for a shepherd. When the shepherd saw Arcadia his heart was struck by an arrow fired by Cupid, and as soon as he had been hurt she felt the same. My true love hath my heart, and I have his, By just exchange, one for the other giv’n. I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss, There never was a better bargain driv’n. His heart in me keeps me and him in one, My heart in him his thoughts and senses
guides: He loves my heart, for once it was his own; I cherish his, because in me it bides. His heart his wound received from my
sight: My heart was wounded with his wounded
heart: For as from me, on him his hurt did light, So still me thought in me his hurt did smart: Both equal hurt, in this change sought our
bliss: My true love hath my heart and I have his.
WithArmistice Day fast approaching I found this poem, sent in by Frank Gowers of Market Drayton, Shropshire, very moving. It was written by A. E Housman (1859–1936) and is included in his cycle of poems A Shropshire Lad (see page 69).
THE LADS IN THEIR HUNDREDS
The lads in their hundreds to Ludlow come
in for the fair, There’s men from the barn and the forge
and the mill and the fold, The lads for the girls and the lads for the
liquor are there, And there with the rest are the lads that will
never be old. There’s chaps from the town and the field
and the till and the cart, And many to count are the stalwart, and
many the brave, And many the handsome of face and the
handsome of heart, And few that will carry their looks or their
truth to the grave. I wish one could know them, I wish there
were tokens to tell The fortunate fellows that now you can
never discern; And then one could talk with them friendly
and wish them farewell And watch them depart on the way that
they will not return.
E. R. Kettle came across this poem in Norfolk and wonders if anyone has any further information on it?
DON’T PASS THE SALT
If you should drift upon my stone, Don’t pass the salt and cast off home, Spare a thought for what it’s worth, ‘Tis after all my final berth. Get fell in around my neck And cut the nettles from my deck, You’ll find no flowers upon my poop No fancy vase of daffodil soup, A bird or two, maybe singing, A spider climbing up my rigging, Still here I lie run aground, My wooden hammock battened down. No more broadsides off the Cape, No more langridge, shot and grape, No more wax-sealed kissed home, No quay-side hugs with hankies blown. The octopus roots of nearby trees Cradle me now safe from seas Belay a spell and keep your shirt on I’ve sailed with the best from Naples to
Merton. But just before you sling your hook, Log me in your spotter’s book, And if it’s sunny, skies not leaden, Take a photo, f.11. And if a stranger cruising past Should ask who’s that amid the grass, A Churchill, Ike or some such Nero, Tell him you’ve found a Nelson hero. And when you’re snug with your
‘Dispatch’, Knocking a grog down your hatch, Remember me, if you can, For I was once a Nelson man.
Mrs. Angie Wheeler (47-4426 232 Street, Langley, B. C. V2Z 2R3, Canada) discovered this poem in an old album of poems, birthday cards for a four-year-old and postcards that had been put together as a gift for her sister who was born in 1940. The poem, written by “Bea”, is a tribute to children killed when a bomb hit their London school. THE LITTLE LIGHTS When it was very DARK, the clouds rolled
back Before a silent wind on high, and then I saw
the LITTLE LIGHTS smile in the sky. When it was very COLD and EARTH
SHOWED BLACK Through patches of the yellow snow,
shining, I saw the LITTLE LIGHTS. The young leaves, glow. Darker it is — more COLD to keep my track. Lit by the LITTLE LIGHTS I’ll try — by making them a GENTLER EARTH and a CLEAR SKY.
Angie wonders if anyone can identify the poem and its author, and give information about the tragedy.
Mrs. Maureen Totman from Southampton has asked me to trace a poem that her father used to recite. It was about a dog called Spot and Maureen recalls that it was rather sad. I’ve had a search but haven’t found anything — can any reader help?
Now for a very cheeky request! Ray Denvil (3 Emerald Court, 76 Brighton Road, Coulsdon, Surrey CR5 2BB) wonders if anyone can help him trace a monologue about a tattooist that he once recited to a local drama group. Ray has now lost trace of it — all he can recall is that the final line is “And I signed ’er on the bottom with me name!”
Educated, handsome, charming, brave, artistic and an excellent horseman, Sir Philip Sidney was the epitome of a perfect Elizabethan gentleman. His family home was Penshurst Place where family portraits hang in the medieval West Solar (right).
A view of the Shropshire countryside, a county forever associated with A.E. Housman, from Bury Ditches Iron Age hill fort.
A bronze statue of Admiral Horatio Nelson gazes out over the Thames at Greenwich. See poem above.