Saturday, January 20, 2018

A Vectensian Villanelle by Afton Marsh

I sing the beauteous Isle of Wight!
Th’unparallel’d, unalloy’d charm
Conferr’d by God for our delight.

Was ever a more prettier sight
Than Vectis’ verdant field and farm?
I sing the beautiful Isle of Wight!

Or peep from Pepper-pot’s lofty height
To cliffy Blackgang’s cloven calm,
Conferr’d by God for our delight.

This diamond, sapphire-sea bedight,
Secreted in Poseidon’s palm:
I sing the beautiful Isle of Wight!

No serpents this fair Eden blight;
Her loveliness misdeeds disarm,
Conferr’d by God for our delight,

Fair Vectis doth all ills requite
And on each wound pour healing balm.
O sing the beautiful Isle of Wight,
Conferr’d by God for our delight!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Another work by 'Afton Marsh, Bard of Vectis', newly prised, dried and restored from a pile of soggy papers:

The Goose 

Goose ! O Goose ! O Ganderie-goose !
Whither wand’rest thou ?
What dost thou in milady’s house ?
Anserine bird, how now ?

Goose ! O Goose ! O Ganderie-goose !
Wherefore within roam’st ?
The barnyard were thy proper place ;
The scatter’d corn thou comb’st.

Goose ! O Goose ! O Ganderie-goose !
Thy footfall on the stair :
Hither ; thither ; back and forth ;
Now up ; now down ; now where ?

Goose ! O Goose ! O Ganderie-goose !
What purpose dost thou seek ?
What thine hope, ambition ? O !
If only thou could’st speak !

Goose ! O Goose ! O Ganderie-goose !
No door to thee is barr’d :
Take care, my goose, lest thou should’st be
Hoist by thine own petard !

Goose ! O Goose ! O Ganderie-goose !
If that my lady fair
Should ope her door, her threshold shun—
Beware ! my goose, beware !

Goose ! O Goose ! O Ganderie-goose !
 ‘ Thou prayest not, I wis
Yest’re’en I heard her cry, ‘ And so
‘ I fling thee down like this

Goose ! O Goose ! O Ganderie-goose !
Escape that old man’s doom :
Lest she should escalate thee too
O enter not her room ! 

© Steve Parkes 2013

Monday, April 1, 2013


Flora Of The Island: A Vectensian Lay

After many hours of careful work, a few sheets from the Tin Box have been separated and interpreted. As far as we can ascertain, they are the work of Mrs N's youngest son Alfred, writing under the nom de plume Afton Marsh. Scanning a few lines, one quickly realises the need for a pseudonym. Here are the opening stanzas of Flora of the Island, restored and recreated as far as possible from the much-crossed-out and much-smudged MS.

From Bembridge to the Needles Light ;  from Niton to the Coweses ;
Down all the lanes ;  up all the Downs ;  and round about the houses ;
A maid there was whose name the Sentiment of Wight arouses :
Flora of the Island.

O give to me the Eagle’s eye that soars above the sea,
And I’ll describe the rolling land that ripples under me,—
The wild and wind-swept West of Wight, whose Daughter true was she :
Flora of the Island.

The diamond-figur’d Isle of Wight is cleft from North to South
By Estuaries several, each one a river’s mouth
Carv’d by courses prehistoric, flows from far-flung South
’Fore it was an island.

The western-most of these, the Yar,— a cruel, jagged slash,—
Cleaves off the West from all the rest,  its traces does unlash,
Whose sandy Bays the broad Atlantic’s boundless waves do splash
                                      For aye upon the Island.

There laughs a little silver stream, beside a humble cot ;
A yeoman couple dwelt there, poor but honest, Heav’n wot ;
And by these twain, by Heav’n’s grace, one daughter was begot :
Flora of the Island.

The West’s a garden, guarded by Pam’s sturdy fortress towers ;
And if a maid a blossom be, then many were the flowers
Whereat the little busy bee improv’d the shining hours,
                                      A-buzz about the Island.

Poets, laud ye not the lesser femininity ;
Speak not of Atalanta, nor sing of Aura Lee ;
The golden Rose of Vectis is the only maid for me :
Flora of the Island !

The brightest Rose that in that rose-bud girly-garden blew,
Her eyes were quite as diamonds bright and sparkl’d as the dew ;
She was the finest Rose-bud Freshwater ever knew :
Flora of the Island !

Fair Flora’s physiognomy the sternest muse might sate ;
With cam’ra, Mrs Cam’ron oft besought her chaste portrait
(Even tho’ she could not keep her thumb-prints off the plate)
Of Flora of the Island.

And Mr Watts the painter too would snare her in his toils,
Would ’tice her to his studio and her likeness craft in oils ;
Had not her native modesty denied his victor’s spoils,
Mild Flora of the Island !

Each youth of Vectis pressed his suit on Vectis’ fairest daughter,
For young men all from far and near in matrimony sought her ;
But ne’er a one, or rich or poor, in Cupid’s nets had caught her,
Flora of the Island.

These lads those lips did long for, and they’d flutter and they’d fuss :
‘ One kiss ! one kiss ! o Flora dear, we beg you, grant to us ! ’
But ev’ry one walked sadly home — he had missed his buss
From Flora of the Island.

But one among those boys was there that would not be gainsaid,
One who must needs follow where’er his ardour led,—
One who knew, in True Love’s ways, his heart must rule his head
O’er Flora of the Island.

Humility made valiant by love for Vectis’ lily ;
‘ Faint heart fair lady never won, ’ he cried, but still he
Let ‘ I dare not ’ wait upon ‘ I would, ’ — o silly Billy !
                                      Win Flora of the Island !

 ... and this is as far as we've got so far.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The story so far:

A young woman of my acquaintance, who wishes to avoid the unflattering glare of publicity, has asked me to pass on the following information. She has been charged with the disposal of her great-aunt's effect following that lady's decease. Among the odds and ends in her attic was a locked tin box; the key has only recently turned up, and the contents of the box disclosed ... or have they? At some time in its history the box has suffered from inundation, possibly in sea-water, and the contents, mostly papers, have become damp. Many pieces have become stuck to one another, and such individual items as have been separated have been found to be either illegible, where they bear handwriting, or to have surface damage rendering the print incomplete.

However, with the advice of a professional conservator, the young woman hopes -- indeed, is confident -- that much of the papers will yield their secrets in the fullness of time. The above photograph is an encouraging example. She believes it is probably the likeness of her 19th century ancestress, Mrs Hilda Norris, who, according to family legend, enjoyed a brief celebrity among the 'Freshwater Circle' at Dimbola Lodge on the Isle of Wight. I shall be allowed to publish selected items as they become available. Watch this space!
In 1853 the 16-year-old daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray, Anny Thackeray, visited Dimbola Lodge on the Isle of Wight. On discovering the highly creative nature of the other guests she was moved to ask,
'Is there no one who is commonplace here?
Is everybody either a poet, or a genius,
or a painter, or peculiar in some way?'

This blog sets out to celebrate the life and times of Mrs Hilda Norris of Yarmouth, the only commonplace person to cross the threshold of Dimbola Lodge.

Color: #fff2cc => #ECE2CB