Monday 18 December 2017

Ulick O'Connor - poetry: Poetess who deserved to be laureate

Generosity: Alice Meyne took Francis Thompson under her wing
Generosity: Alice Meyne took Francis Thompson under her wing

Ulick O'Connor

Alice Meynell, the 170th anniversary of whose birth is this year, was the greatest woman poet in England of her time.

She was particularly well known in America and toured universities and literary clubs, where she was recognised by the Yanks as the leading poetess.

Many thought she should have been chosen as England's Poet Laureate, but being a woman knocked that out for the time that was in it.

She was a woman of overwhelming charity. It was she who discovered Francis Thompson, the poet, astray on opium on the London backstreets and soon had him well enough to finish his acknowledged masterpiece, 'The Hound of Heaven'.

I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;

I fled Him, down the arches of the years;

Meynell herself, in a gentler way, had Thompson's gift of endowing the simplest words with massive meaning. How about this dealing with the mysteries of maternity?


One wept whose only child was dead

New-born, ten years ago.

"Weep not; he is in bliss", they said

She answered, "Even so.

"Ten years ago was born in pain

A child not now forlorn.

But oh, ten years ago, in vain

A mother, a mother was born"

Alice Meynell 1847-1922

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