October 19th 2018:
Our topic this month was Sports and Games. We enjoyed a wide selection of poems ranging from verses about children in the playground to a reading of Invictus, which was most appropriate due to the Invictus Games starting the following day. These are the poems that we read:
- · Not in Vain An American teenager
- · Sports Day Anon
- · Grandma Anon
- · Skating Wordsworth
- · Invictus W E Henley
- · At Lords Francis Thompson
- · Tennis Hannah Freeman
- · Life is Like a Game of Golf Anon
- · Casey at the Bat Ernest L Theyer
- · Golf – sleep Billy Collins
- · What Fun Anon
- · Sumo Wrestler Chappie Paul Cookson
- · John My Football Hero Anon
- · The Perfect Match Glyn Maxwell
- · Seaside Golf John Betjeman
- · The Runners Allan Ahlberg
- · Picking Teams Allan Ahlberg
- · Tennis Balls Anon
- · Dog Days Marian Elliott
September 2018 -After our summer break, members met to read a selection of first or last lines from their favourite poems. This was a lively and entertaining meeting and, not surprisingly, there were many popular and well-loved verses chosen. We had decided that these would be the theme for the Groups’ Showcase meeting on 3rd October. Jenny produced a beautiful display board with many well-known lines – a lot of which are in common usage.
Friday 20th July: We looked at the work of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. We found that many of their poems were extremely long and some were also sombre. These are the poems we read, with some being extracts from the whole work.
· My Last Duchess
· Home Thoughts From Abroad
· Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came
· The Pied Piper of Hamelin
· How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix
· One Way of Love
· Pippa Passes
Elizabeth Barrett Browning:-
- · How Do I Love Thee
- · My Kate
- · A Musical Instrument
- · The Cry of the Children
- · My Heart and I
This is an interesting extract from Westminster Abbey website:-
The poet Robert Browning is buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. He was born on 7th May 1812 in London, a son of Robert Browning (1782-1866) and Sarah (Wiedemann). He married Elizabeth Barrett, a famous poet in her own right, in September 1846. They lived much of their life in Italy, due to her poor health, and their son was also called Robert (but known as Pen). The Ring and the Book is considered to be his best work and his poem ‘Oh, to be in England, now that April’s there’ is well known. Browning died at his son’s house on the Grand Canal in Venice and was to have been buried alongside his wife in Florence but the cemetery had been closed.
The Dean of Westminster, a friend of the poet, offered burial in Westminster Abbey and the family accepted. Robert’s body was returned to London by train. The various certificates needed for the journey through Italy and France are kept in the Abbey archives. The British Vice Consul in Venice certified that his body was enclosed in three sealed cases, one of metal and two of wood. He was buried in Poets’ Corner, near Chaucer’s monument, on 31st December 1889. The Dean had also agreed to the family’s request that Elizabeth be re-interred with her husband but then the family withdrew their application. Alfred, Lord Tennyson was laid to rest beside him in 1892 and the ashes of John Masefield, who died in 1967, lie at his head.
The present gravestone was laid down in 1894 and is composed of brown and cream Italian marble with red porphyry and the inscription reads: ROBERT BROWNING MAY 7 1812 DEC 12 1889.
In 1906 an inscription was added at the base of the stone: His wife ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING is buried in Florence 1806-1861.
She was a child of Edward Barrett and was an invalid when Robert began a correspondence with her which led to a secret engagement and later marriage. Her first work to gain public attention was The Seraphim and other poems. After Wordsworth’s death it was thought she might succeed him as Poet Laureate but that did not happen. Her main work is Aurora Leigh.
Friday June 15th:
There were 11 members at our June meeting and the topic was Desert Island Poems. Members chose poems they would like to have with them if marooned on a desert island. There were some very emotional moments as, understandably, a lot of the poems chosen recalled childhood and family. These were the poems selected:-
Rain Spike Milligan
Sea Fever John Masefield
The Night Mail W H Auden
The Five Senses Charlotte Wigley (age 9yrs)
Farewell to the Highlands Robert Burns
Eden Rock Charles Causley
From a Railway Carriage R L Stevenson
Cargoes John Masefield
I Love Little Kitty Anon
Mr Mistopheles T S Elliott
The Spires of Oxford Winifred M Letts
Nod Walter de la Mare
The Jervis Bay Michael Thwaites
Warning Jenny Joseph
The Garden Andrew Marvell
Clock A Clay John Clare
Let Me Die a Young Man’s Death Roger McGough
Veruca Salt Roald Dahl
Friday May 18th:
The topic for our May meeting was Spike Milligan and other comic verse. These are some of the poems we read:-
Peekaboo Ogden Nash
The Mad Gardeners Song Lewis Carroll
A Dressmaker Jean Kenward
Granny Spike Milligan
On Comparing Pam Ayres
My Husband to Robbie Burns
The Lion Roald Dahl
The Supply Teacher Allan Ahlberg
Jolly Hunter Charles Causley
Dew Pond and Black Drainpipes Selima Hill
On the Ning Nag Nong Spike Milligan
Friday April 20th:
There were only 9 members at our April meeting but we read a wide selection of poems about Spring and flowers.
In the Spring – Tennyson
Pink Almond – Katharine Tynan
The Rhodora – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Rose Red – Emilie
Autumn Flower – Urban (Nick) Heath
Where the Passion Flower Grows – Charles M Moore
The Thrushes Nest – John Clare
An Unkindly May – Thomas Hardy
At Atlanta in Caledonia – Swinburne
Home Thoughts from Abroad – Robert Browning
Mud, mud Glorious Mud – Michael Flanders
Morning Peace – Joanna Keeling
Sonnet No. 5 – To a Friend who sent me Roses – Keats
Flowers – Rola Barbakh
Three humorous ones by Anon – The Little Plant: The Little Seed and 5 Little Seeds Child’s Song in Spring – E Nesbit
Weathers – Thomas Hardy
The Field Daisy – June Taylor
The Loveliest of Trees – A E Housman
Trees – Joyce Kilmer
A Rose is a Rose – Roopali
Over Hill Over Dale – from Shakespeare Midsummer Night’s Dream
From Pippa Passes – The Year’s at the Spring – Robert Browning
Friday 16th March:
Following the theme of looking at the works of particular poets, the eleven members at this month’s meeting discussed and read poems by Tennyson.
Born on August 6, 1809, in Somersby, Lincolnshire, England, Alfred Lord Tennyson is one of the most well-loved Victorian poets. Tennyson, the fourth of twelve children, showed an early talent for writing. At the age of twelve he wrote a 6,000-line epic poem. His father, the Reverend George Tennyson, tutored his sons in classical and modern languages. In the 1820s, however, Tennyson’s father began to suffer frequent mental breakdowns that were exacerbated by alcoholism. One of Tennyson’s brothers had violent quarrels with his father, a second was later confined to an insane asylum, and another became an opium addict.
Tennyson escaped home in 1827 to attend Trinity College, Cambridge. In that same year, he and his brother Charles published Poems by Two Brothers. Although the poems in the book were mostly juvenilia, they attracted the attention of the “Apostles,” an undergraduate literary club led by Arthur Hallam. The “Apostles” provided Tennyson, who was tremendously shy, with much needed friendship and confidence as a poet. Hallam and Tennyson became the best of friends; they toured Europe together in 1830 and again in 1832. Hallam’s sudden death in 1833 greatly affected the young poet. The long elegy In Memoriam and many of Tennyson’s other poems are tributes to Hallam.
In 1830, Tennyson published Poems, Chiefly Lyrical and in 1832 he published a second volume entitled simply Poems. Some reviewers condemned these books as “affected” and “obscure.” Tennyson, stung by the reviews, would not publish another book for nine years. In 1836, he became engaged to Emily Sellwood. When he lost his inheritance on a bad investment in 1840, Sellwood’s family called off the engagement. In 1842, however, Tennyson’s Poems in two volumes was a tremendous critical and popular success. In 1850, with the publication of In Memoriam,
Tennyson became one of Britain’s most popular poets. He was selected Poet Laureate in succession to Wordsworth. In that same year, he married Emily Sellwood. They had two sons, Hallam and Lionel.
At the age of 41, Tennyson had established himself as the most popular poet of the Victorian era. The money from his poetry (at times exceeding 10,000 pounds per year) allowed him to purchase a house in the country and to write in relative seclusion. His appearance—a large and bearded man, he regularly wore a cloak and a broad brimmed hat—enhanced his notoriety. He read his poetry with a booming voice, often compared to that of Dylan Thomas. In 1859, Tennyson published the first poems of Idylls of the Kings, which sold more than 10,000 copies in one month. In 1884, he accepted a peerage, becoming Alfred Lord Tennyson. Tennyson died on October 6, 1892, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Although some of Tennyson’s works are very long, it is surprising how many well-known phrases feature in them. His style of verse and rhyme was not to some members’ taste. Learning about his life and background gave more meaning to the poems we read, some of which are extracts from his longer works. We read: –
· Charge of the Light Brigade
· The Brook
· From Memorium (extract)
· The Cracken
· Break, Break, Break
· The Eagle
· The Owl
· Crossing the Bar
· The Shell
· Come Not When I am Dead
· “Song” from the Princess
· The Merman
· The Mermaid
· The Lady of Shallot – verses read in turn by members
Friday January 16th:
We decided that in 2018, rather than always reading poems based on a chosen topic, we would also look at the works of specific poets.
At our December meeting we had expressed surprise on finding that “There Was a Little Girl” had been written by Longfellow. We therefore decided to look at his other works for our January meeting, together with learning more about Longfellow’s life.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in Portland, Maine—then still part of Massachusetts—on February 27, 1807, the second son in a family of eight children. His mother, Zilpah Wadsworth, was the daughter of a Revolutionary War hero. His father, Stephen Longfellow, was a prominent Portland lawyer and later a member of Congress. Henry was a dreamy boy who loved to read. He heard sailors speaking Spanish, French and German in the Portland streets and liked stories set in foreign places: The Arabian Nights, Robinson Crusoe, and the plays of Shakespeare. After graduating from Bowdoin College, Longfellow studied modern languages in Europe for three years, then returned to Bowdoin to teach them. In 1831 he married Mary Storer Potter of Portland, a former classmate, and soon published his first book, a description of his travels called Outre Mer (“Overseas”). But in November 1835, during a second trip to Europe, Longfellow’s life was shaken when his wife died during a miscarriage. The young teacher spent a grief-stricken year in Germany and Switzerland.
Longfellow took a position at Harvard in 1836. Three years later, at the age of thirty-two, he published his first collection of poems, Voices of the Night, followed in 1841 by Ballads and Other Poems. Many of these poems (“A Psalm of Life,” for example) showed people triumphing over adversity, and in a struggling young nation that theme was inspiring. Both books were very popular, but Longfellow’s growing duties as a professor left him little time to write more. In addition, Frances Appleton, a young woman from Boston, had refused his proposal of marriage. Frances finally accepted his proposal the following spring, ushering in the happiest eighteen years of Longfellow’s life. The couple had six children, five of whom lived to adulthood, and the marriage gave him new confidence. In 1847, he published Evangeline, a book-length poem about what would now be called “ethnic cleansing.” The poem takes place as the British drive the French from Nova Scotia, and two lovers are parted, only to find each other years later when the man is about to die.
In 1854, Longfellow decided to quit teaching to devote all his time to poetry. He published Hiawatha, a long poem about Native American life, and The Courtship of Miles Standish and Other Poems. Both books were immensely successful, but Longfellow was now preoccupied with national events. With the country moving toward civil war, he wrote “Paul Revere’s Ride,” a call for courage in the coming conflict. A few months after the war began in 1861, Frances Longfellow was sealing an envelope with wax when her dress caught fire. Despite her husband’s desperate attempts to save her, she died the next day. Profoundly saddened, Longfellow published nothing for the next two years. He found comfort in his family and in reading Dante’s Divine Comedy. (Later, he produced its first American translation.) Tales of a Wayside Inn,<> largely written before his wife’s death, was published in 1863.
When the Civil War ended in 1865, the poet was fifty-eight. His most important work was finished, but his fame kept growing. In London alone, twenty-four different companies were publishing his work. His poems were popular throughout the English-speaking world, and they were widely translated, making him the most famous American of his day. His admirers included Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens, and Charles Baudelaire. From 1866 to 1880, Longfellow published seven more books of poetry, and his seventy-fifth birthday in 1882 was celebrated across the country. But his health was failing, and he died the following month, on March 24 1882.
We read the following poems and noted some recurring themes of family, home and fire.
- The Twilight
- The Arrow and the Song
- Children’s Hour
- The Psalm of Life
- The Village Blacksmith
- The Golden Milestone
- Rain in Summer
- The Fire of Driftwood
- A Gleam of Sunshine
- The Bridge
- There Was a Little Girl
Surprisingly nobody read an excerpt from Hiawatha – probably Longfellow’s most well-known work. We may revisit this at a later date.