Family Favourites

When it comes to emptying houses it’s often luck that decides what gets rescued. I’ve got two books of poetry that belonged to my Grandmother, which may explain why I’m here, writing, today.The first book is a present from her father for her 19th birthday.It says much for her family, herself and the poetry scene at the time that a young woman should get such a present and keep it carefully for 59 years.
There must have been a reason why the young Rosa Williams kept her copy of
Midsummer Verses
and other Poems
by Rev. G. Bampfield, B.A.Oxon
Subscriber’s Copy St Andrew’s Press,
Union Street, Barnet, 1874.

It is a wonderful example of early self-publishing. This was the luxury 19th century version, with imitation dark brown leather binding and gorgeous thick gilt edging. It has the careful craftsmanship of its time.
However, inside, there are surprises – no fey pages about wayside blossoms or the arrival of spring. No.
Rev Bampfield is immersed in Greek escapades, to the exclusion of the real world about him.As a Catholic priest, he obviously had Latin; but Arion, Atys, Cydippe and Plycrates are his chosen Greeks-
“Oh! What is the song of the Gods themselves
As they sip the eternal wine?
If earthly singing prove so sweet,
What shall be song divine?”
116 pages, for the most part in unrhyming Iambic Pentameter, it plods along in impenetrable learnedness. At the mercy of the style of his time (and some time long before) here are examples, taken at random:
for thus had will’d the Gods
thou wert mine and I thine own
Alas! ’tis so -Epimachus I slew.
anon in mimic rivalry and strife
Ah! Poet Hubert, at your dreaming still!

A touch of his current life in Barnet shows in the ‘Miscellaneous’ section at the end, with ‘The Old School‘ an English Idyll, followed by
In Memoriam -for the church organist, Dr Flowers,
Gordon -General Gordon died 1885 at Khartoum.
The Cottage Hospital
” As truest friend we’ll welcome pain,
If Love shall by her side remain.”
….It continues, including two laments about parishioners using a Threepenny Bit as their offering on the collection plate instead of the Sixpence. In these, he lightens up and we get an insight to life of the time, with:
“In days before the Threepenny,
Poor Ma’, though most unwilling,
Was forced to put upon the plate
A Sixpence or a Shilling.”
Throughout, all lines begin with capital letters and a metronome might as well be used to measure the ten-syllabic lines.
If could have been invented then, it would have picked up the constant use of manliness, men, heroes,gods,king,soldier,boys -a limited span.The book is like an enclosed world, which is easy to identify, but I often wonder if we have the same closed mind.
Maybe future readers will pick out our quaint conformities too, that we cannot see and perhaps our avant garde will look moth-eaten and not ‘avant’ at all. A hundred and nineteen years will show up all our defects clearly. Time is the perfect Editor.

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