A lost poem about The Titanic

IMG_0468Found – a short poem on the sinking of the Titanic by  James Rhoades_ (1841 – 1923) anAnglo- Irish minor poet. He was admired in his day and one of his poems is in The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. There are spiritual undertones in this poem too. The poem was published in a collection of his verse from 1915 Words by the Wayside. He made a speciality of commemorative verse or vers d’occasion. The book was a signed presentation from the author with a short verse added (ssee below).

The Titanic had sunk 1n April 1912 with the loss of more than 1500 lives and the poem shows what a huge event this was in its day, on a par with 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. James Rhoades had also written about the disaster  in 1912 in the Westminster Gazette emphasising the self sacrifice of the crew



No frantic scream; no frenzied strife;

Unflinching gave their sacrifice;

Unflinching stood that noble host,

Each man at his appointed post..


This later poem with its enticing pantheist theme, although touching on heroism, is less about the stiff upper lip etc.,

A lesson from the Titanic

See in great moments how we cast aside

The fear-spun cloak of hatred, foe to foe –

Poor outworn rags of rivalry and pride!

A soul-fraught vessel to destruction hurled

Sets free the mighty heart -stream of the world

Unlocks it’s frozen flow.
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Rowling’s Professor Binns on Saki

Stubbs letter to Haining fantasy 001
Found among the Haining Archive at Jot HQ is this typewritten letter dated 6thJune 1984 from the Classical historian H(ugh). W. Stubbs (1917 – 2012) of Exeter University, who was the model for J. K. Rowling’s Professor Binns in the Harry Potter novels. While at Exeter University in the early eighties reading French, Rowling had chosen Ancient History and Culture as a supplementary subject and had attended some of Stubbs’s soporific lectures. Though not a charismatic speaker, Stubbs was far from boring as a person. In the letter he dilates on the joys of Saki, among other topics.


Most of the letter is taken up with Haining’s 1983 edition of stories by Saki and with the editor’s Preface in particular, but Stubbs is also good value on supernatural literature in general, as well as philology and folklore. There are also a few acerbic asides on Chips Channon ( ‘ that horrible man ‘ ) on the horror anthologies ( ‘ a singular repulsive series ‘)  edited by Christine Campbell and on the American academic Langguth  ( ‘ abysmally ignorant ‘ ). Stubbs himself seems to have taken a keen academic interest in the supernatural genre. He tells Haining that in the 1950’s he corresponded with Peter Penzoldt, author of a  pioneering study, The Supernatural in English Fiction(1952).


On Saki Stubbs answers various points made by Haining. Firstly, he tackles the famous Saki story ‘Sredny Vashtar’. Continue reading

The Legend of the Romsey Nuns

This is from Folklore Legends and Superstitious Customs in Connection with Andover and Neighbourhood  by M Gillett (Andover 1917.) A shortish book with were wolves, ghosts, shadows of the firstborn and the Glastonbury holy thorn. This dramatic tale shows how legends are made...

The following legend I admit is rather hard to believe, but I have heard it from two quite different sources, and I relate it as follows:

 When the Danes ravaged Wessex, they marched up to Romsey Abbey, pillaging as they went. The nuns,  terrified at the barbarous and heathen hordes, fled, and supposing Winchester to have shared the same fate, journeyed on to Wherwell Abbey - now Wherwell Priory. But before they arrived at the nunnery they got lost in the woods, which still remain, and many of them perished from exposure and starvation. Tradition says that the nuns sat down in despair, and  in their hopelessness began to abuse the Almighty  and angered Him to such an extent that when they died their souls became wild cats.

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Walt Whitman Parody

From a Ignes Fatui, a Book of Parodies by Philip Guedalla (Oxford 1911) Parodic poems and playlets written while Guedalla was at Rugby and Balliol College, Oxford. Some of the parodies are of slightly forgotten authors like W.E. Henley and Maeterlinck (a piece that sounds like  Beckett's Godot) but he also lampoons Macaulay, Swinburne, Kipling, Baedeker, Omar Khayyam, Hardy, Shakespeare and Shaw. Here is his Whitman squib - at the time Whitman's reputation was still breaking in England.

'Walt Whitman, Inciting the Bird of
Freedom to Soar' by Max Beerbohm 1904

Canzonette to Democracy

I sing the song of me mendacious and the lies of
me mendacious:

I see God give the Land to the People, and the
grasshoppers on the Land,

I see double! Libertad, Americanos, Libertad I
cry. (No, I will not keep quiet.)

I want Eight, Votes for Women, brilliantine, a half blue,
one Man one Pub., Home Rule for Wales and a National Theatre.

Allons, camerados, let us tax the foreigner; let's
tax him in Paumanok, Manhattan, Oswego
and Illinois, but especially in Illinois.

I care nothing, or comparatively nothing for 
Second Chambers, Revising or otherwise. I 
am not a Peer: are you?

How hot you all look, the En Masse, the Tout
Ensemble: I too am hot from my unkempt
hair-thatch to the ten curling toes, each self
-contained with its individual nail.

O Columbia, how hot I am!

[Oxford 1910]

The tone is reminiscent of Rick the 'people's poet' from The Young Ones but it passes the first test of parody - i.e. you know who is being parodied...not sure what 'Eight' was however.

The Perils of Irony

From a Bookman's Budget by the estimable Austion Dobson (OUP 1917). The case was reported in the Westminster Gazette of 1916 but has a slightly  Dickensian ring.


Irony, which Byron described as a ' master-spell ', 
and Mrs. Slipslop called 'ironing'* is at times an 
awkward edged-tool.There is no better illustration 
of this than an anecdote of the late Lord Justice
Bowen. Once, when acting as a Puisne Judge, there 
came before him the case of a burglar who, having
entered a house by the top-story, was afterwards 
captured below stairs in the act of sampling the silver.
The defence was more ingenuous than ingenious. The 
accused was alleged to be a person of eccentric habits,
much addicted to perambulating the roofs of adjacent 
houses, and occasionally dropping in 'permiscuous' 
through an open skylight. This naturally stirred the
judge to caustic comment. Summing up, he is reported 
to have said : "If, gentlemen, you think it likely that
the prisoner was merely indulging an amiable fancy for
midnight exercise on his neighbour's roof; if you think
it was kindly consideration for that neighbour which led
him to take off his boots and leave them behind him before
descending into the house ; and if you believe that it was
the innocent curiosity of the connoisseur which brought him
to the silver pantry and caused him to borrow the teapot,
then, gentlemen, you will acquit the prisoner!" To Lord 
Bowen's dismay, the jury did instantly acquit the prisoner. 

*Byron must have remembered this when he said that the 
irrepressible Mme de Stael was ' well ironed ' by Sheridan at 
one of Rogers's breakfasts. 

King Kong’s Vital Statistics

Found in Mostly Monsters by John Robert Colombo (Ontario 1977). A curious work of 'found' poems mainly from monster books and movies. For example, this piece extracted from Gustav Meyrink's 1915 novel The Golem:

But this I know-
That there is something here
In our quarter of the town...
Something that cannot die,
And has its being within our midst.
From generation to generation
Our ancestors have lived here
In this place,
And no one has heard more tales
About this reappearance
Of the Golem-
Happenings actually experienced
As well as handed down-
Than I have.

Another 'poem' is taken from a publicity handout for Merian Cooper's 1932 movie King Kong:

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A problematical squib by Chesterton

Triolet of the Self-examining Journalist

My writing is bad
And my speaking is worse
I have lost all I had
My writing is bad,
It’s dreadfully sad
And I don’t care a curse
My writing is bad
And my speaking is worse.

G.K. Chesterton
Feb. 27.1912.

Here’s a literary puzzle to gnaw on. In his introduction to volume ten of G. K. Chesterton: the Collected Works, Denis J Conlon maintains that addressing a meeting of the Distributist League at Gatti’s Restaurant in London on January 11, 1934, Chesterton summed up what he called his moral, mental and spiritual condition in an ‘ impromptu triolet ‘. Conlon prints this squib, which in every respect but one, is identical to the one printed above. In the later version the third line has become ‘They were all that I had ‘.

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Herbert Horne (1855 – 1916)

An article from the long defunct Anglo - Italian Review, October 1918. Edited by Edward Hutton, an English  Italophile who wrote several Italian travel books and featuring articles by Nobel Prize winner Grazia Deledda, Norman Douglas & Benedetto Croce. This piece is by the novelist Reginal Turner and is an affectionate tribute to his friend Herbert Horne - art historian, art dealer, architect, typographer and Arts and Craft movement designer. The photo below is of him with his friend and colleague the architect  A.H. Mackmurdo (standing) and an older woman, possibly AHM's mother at a house ('Brooklyn') in Enfield. The story of Horne finding  two Michelangelo drawings for a penny each in the Fulham Road is hard to top...

HERBERT PERCY HORNE, who died in Florence

in May, 1916, belonged to the numerous band of interesting Englishmen who made Italy their home, and the memory of whose sojourns there does not pass with their death. He did not found a family there as did Walter Savage Landor. He took no part in public life as did Waddington, who went casually to Perugia and remained there to become Syndic. It may even be said that to the majority of Italians as to Englishmen his name was unknown. He had an almost morbid love of retirement ; those who knew him well could not but be amazed at his slight suspicion--there is no other word--of hospitality. Yet Herbert Horne was known to a large circle which included some of the best-known and ‘many of the most talked about of his contemporaries: most of them loved him, all of them respected him, and he was recognised by them as one of the most learned, one of the wisest, and one of the most reliable men of his time.   Continue reading