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Poetry Magnum Opus

Once upon a gentle time..


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The rectory had garden gnomes

on view for one and all.

Some of them with balding domes

were nearly two feet tall.

Who pierced the soil with spade and fork

in old blue bib and braces.

Diligently at their work

with silent weathered faces.


Others sat around a toadstool

laughing, playing cards;

supping ale to keep them cool

from little stony jars.

One-- was collapsed on his back:

another-- bent and sly,

dealt cards out from a dodgy pack,

his winnings piled up high.


The clergyman: a crafty bloke,

none of that blood and thunder;

always had a laugh and joke

and never mentioned Sunday.

Let us at his apple trees

to pillage there at will;

while he stood watching patiently,

until our bags were filled.


He'd bring us ice-cold lemonade

before we trudged off home;

and tell short stories in the shade

relating to each gnome.

And it didn't seem like he was preaching:

for he'd such a tactful way,

that made you feel the gnomes were teaching,

while he enjoyed the day.

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Oh, please tell me this IS memory and not fantasy! So glad you added the word "gentle" in the title.


Great use of assonance in cards and jars, and Sunday and thunder. Sneaky bounder.....


And the line "pillage there at will": clever.


I hope I do not sound like a Maudlin Marti, but this is a sweet poem without sounding like a greeting card. Bravo.

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From my childhood memories of when rural early 1950's England was a very different world. The Vicarage was a large detached house with a tennis court at the rear-- and poplar trees that separated its grounds from the tall reeds of a river bank. At the front, a well kept garden was populated by unusual (for that time) large and expensive garden gnomes. The front of the house was masked from the road by horse chestnut trees (not apple); where my ragamuffin friends and I would throw heavy sticks to dislodge conkers--- a small boy's treasure. We never met the clergyman but understood the morality of the garden gnomes. The house was one of several in a prime location for the well-off. We rarely attended church as kids, unless at school, and were always conscious of a Victorian attitude that still prevailed among the educated: both in schools, and also with most of the better off at that time. The house is still there-- though the area is built-up with neat “semis” now. I don't know whether it still belongs to the church these days. I rarely visit my home town, then only to tend my parents' grave in the cemetery, which is only a few hundred yards past the the old house.

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I would say the past grows larger in our minds as we descend into it ... a bit morbid, forsooth! I can remember Dublin City in short pants which actually came down to your knees in those days and were tied up with a colourful belt with an "S" clasp and you had raggedy much-mended grey floppy socks called stockings. And you had a school cap and a blazer with a crest on the pocket. God be with the days, as me Nana used to say, and she was born in 1890. Oh, would you look, I'm one post ahead of you with 585 to your 584! Hand over that conker.

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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No chance-- I liked to bake 'em hard! :biggrin: Also had a tri-colour "snake" belt and recall having to wear short pants until we were 13yrs old in a boys only school. That wouldn't go down well today.

My parents were a product of the early 20th century; of 1920s and 1930s austerity who experienced war in the 1940s that made many of their generation question the social, ideological and spiritual. I look back at my own life, particularly the 1960s and wonder how the next generation will evolve bearing in mind our present set of woes, for we seem to be in reverse mode just now. I wonder if they'll have cyber-gnomes.

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Never mind the next generation. What have they ever done for us?

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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Our neighbor is Chinese. He has a large yard and garden with stone gnomes placed, I'm sure, in special or traditional ways. All we have are drawings of gnomes, so we likely have only thin protection. Funny thing is that the Chinese guy and family celebrate American holidays with vigor, perhaps because he has a successful restaurant in town. Or maybe he's just an American patriot. Inscrutable, indeed! My own early years were filled by fire and brimstone from the Southern Baptist Churches in the Cotton Mather style. Hell was a creditable threat against the natural ways of adolescents and teens. And then there was the Great Depression. Geoff, is there thick Irish blood in your English veins? Enjoyed the poem. Everyone takes away a unique effect.

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No Irish blood Franklin...French..my father's family migrated here but I've always had a fondness for traditional Irish songs and music. G.

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I thought I liked Irish music/ballads until I listened to Brendan and pals in their drunken wails from hell. (Just kidding, Bren.) It's very strange to me that music, especially bagpipes, can stop me in my tracks. I do believe in genetic memory. If ever I hear Taps played on the pipes, the water wells in my eyes always.

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One of the best exponents of the Irish or uillian pipes is Finbar Furey whom I met a couple of times. In more recent years I enjoyed his singing of "The Red Rose Cafe" which is on YouTube. The pipes don't feature but a more continental appeal is achieved with the help of a squeezebox. Irish bands have enjoyed much success on mainland Europe particularly Germany. Another facet of the Irish bid for world domination perhaps.... :biggrin:

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  • 4 weeks later...

I've never been a fan of the garden gnome, but that's not to say I don't like some kitschier things. And at least the gnomes are well crafted, not like those mass-produced, giant inflatable football players, snowmen, and santa clauses that appear in peoples' front yards at the expected times each year. I enjoyed the poem and the ensuing discussion.


Tony :smile:

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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