BOOKS BY ALBERTA VICKRIDGE
- The Luck of the Youngest and other pieces. 1905. Byles (Bradford)
- The Sea Gazer (1919). MacDonald.
- The Forsaken Princess (1924). Swan Press.
- The Mountain of Glass (1926) Allen & Unwin.
- Printer’s Ink (1930). Jongleur Press.
- Goatfoot & Other Poems (1931) Jongleur Press.
- Eden Gate (1932). Jongleur Press.
- The Unending Dream: a book for maidens (1934) Jongleur Press.
- Over the Moon (1939) Jongleur Press.
- The Red Planet: Poems in Time of War (1940) Jongleur Press.
Alberta’s two main war poems: In a V.A.D. Pantry and Out of Conflict are to be found in anthologies of war poetry, e.g. Catherine Reilly (ed) (1981). Scars Upon My Heart: Women’s Poetry and Verse of the First World War. Virago, but they are also included in the selection below.
Copies of The Jongleur are the best place to find a wide selection of Alberta’s poetry as she tended to include one of her own poems in most editions.
Alberta’s work is also included in anthologies by S.F. Wright (ed). (1924) Some Yorkshire Poets: an Anthology of Today. Merton Press; and Dorothy Una Ratcliffe (ed) (1956) Northern Broadsheet. Yorkshire Dialect Society. Alberta’s poems can also be found in copies of Microcosm, a literary journal, edited by Dorothy Una Ratcliffe.
SELECTED EXAMPLES OF THE POETRY OF ALBERTA VICKRIDGE
1. EXTRACT FROM THE FORSAKEN PRINCESS
And so she watched outside the city gate
Till he should come again and lead her in.
A furlong hence beside the way she sate,
Arms locked about the knee that propped her chin,
And saw through mists of dream the day begin
Above the gables, glinting on the slate;
And heard the church bells and the city’s din,
And knew how beggars wheedle, whine and prate
And road-grimed roisterers point and jeer and grin;
And watched the broad-wheeled waggons with their freight
Go splashing through the mire; and saw what state
Was kept by rascal mountebanks, whose great
Vermilion coaches gleamed without, within.
All through the weary day till it was late
And she must seek rough shelter at an Inn
She tarried at the tryst, resolved to wait
Till he should lead her home, and to his kin
Present his bride, the star-appointed mate.
Day after day, all weathers, to the same
Resort beside the loud high-road she came,
With constant faith content to wait his will,
With love that in neglect grew never chill-
Until one day when all the town was stirred
By rumours of a wonderous junketing
In the high mansion on the hill, she heard
That he had purchased house and plenishing,
And that he purposed there, to celebrate
His new betrothal with fit pomp, a great
And splendid rout, a sumptuous house-warming
Then no more to the tryst she came, but loathed
The place, and in her tavern sate, and stared
Blind-eyed at the blank wall.
2. IN A V.A.D. PANTRY
Pots in piles of blue and white,
Old in service, cracked and chipped–
While the bare-armed girls tonight
Rinse and dry, with trivial-lipped
Mirth, and jests, and giggling chatter,
In this maze of curls and clatter
Is there no one sees in you
More than common white and blue?
When the potter trimmed your clay’s
Sodden mass to his desire–
Washed you in the viscid glaze
That is clarified by fire–
When he sold your sort in lots,
Reckoning such as common pots–
Did he not at times foresee
Sorrow in your destiny?
Lips of fever, parched for drink
From this vessel seek relief
Ah, so often, that I think
Many a sad Last Supper’s grief
Haunts it still– that they who died,
In man’s quarrel crucified,
Shed a nimbus strange and pale
Round about this humble Grail.
(From ‘The Sea Gazer’)
3. OUT OF CONFLICT
The ward is strangely hushed today;
The morning nurses, sober-eyed,
Recall the screened space, where, they say,
At midnight Number Twenty died.
So many weeks of weary hours
He lay and heard our busy tread,
As patient as the wistful flowers
That spent their fragrance near his bed –
So oft we saw, in passing by,
His questing glance, his dreadful face,
We shall regard resentfully
The stranger that must fill his place…
What vision rapt him through the dim
Slow hours? Like wraiths upon the sight
All common changes seem to him
Of dawn and day, of eve and night;
Each brought its sounds of whispering feet,
Its faces, glimmering, ghost by ghost;
Yet scarce he left his dream to greet
Those comers who would mourn him most.
For in his sight shone such a star
As, after tempers loud and rude,
To sea-worn eyes foretells some far
Relief – a port of quietude;
And, homing to that bourn, he heard
The call so many wanderers know
From meadows lulled by bee and bird
Where he was happy long ago –
Where simple things were ecstasy,
And life a game among the flowers,
And every hurt and malady
Was healed by gentler hands than ours…
Not jacinth wall and golden street
Perchance so rapt his dying gaze;
For him, Heaven’s wonder was the sweet
Lost wonder of his childhood’s days;
Perchance he sought no blissful shore,
No place among the myriad blest,
But just to lay, a child once more,
His tired head on his mother’s breast.
Ah, well, today all dreams come true
For those closed eyes where riddles cease;
He leaves the warring world he knew,
And ratifies, ere we, his peace.
God rest him, then… but we must turn
To face the same sad tasks again –
To tend new convoys, and discern
The same dream in the eyes of pain.
(From ‘The Sea Gazer)
4: DEVON BLUE
Every morning when I awake,
Greeting day and life anew,
First, a cup of tea I take
From a set of Devon-blue.
Cup and saucer, pot and plate –
On each separate piece I view
Seagulls on a rock, sedate,
‘Gainst a sky of Devon-blue.
Even so in mildTorbay,
Dawlish, Brixham, Teignmouth too,
Deeply sapphire gleams the day
From a sea of Devon-blue.
Though my Northern home is far
From the seas and skies I knew,
Brighter all my mornings are
For a glimpse of Devon-blue.
I forget how mist and rain
There as here change heaven’s hue,
Living happy hours again
In a world of Devon-blue.
(Originally published in Western Morning News but re-issued in The Jongleur, Spring 1930)
5: THE WEDDING DRESS
You shed the tissue wrappings, veil on veil;
At last the box revealed its hidden boon,
And like a princess in an old wives’ tale
You saw a dress the colour of the moon!
A slender ring would gird in its embrace
So silvery, so cobweb-fine a mesh;
For joy you pressed its folds against your face,
And felt their touch upon the glowing flesh.
And in your vision dwelt the old supreme
Romance, the happy terror, the surmise.
…”For, vestured like the moon”, so went your dream,
“ I too shall stoop to kiss my shepherd’s eyes…
And I was smitten with a sudden sorrow
To think your dreaming-days must end tomorrow.
(From The Sea-Gazer)
6: A GREETING
To every friend of mine, I know,
I am a different I, and show
New aspects, as new angles start
Fresh colours in a crystal’s heart.
And so to friends of yours do you –
One draws the red, and one the blue;
From fire to ice, from change to change,
As these command the spark, we range.
But in whatever guise you see
This quaint and multitudinous me,
Let that especial person stay
A guest within your heart today.
(from The Jongleur, winter 1929.)
7: THE MASTER PRINTER
All honour to that trinity,
Fust, Schoeffer, Gutenberg, the three
Who laid aside the pen’s restraints
And brought the art of print to Maintz,
And Jenson of Venetian fame,
And William Caxton’s English name,
And learned Aldus, skilled as they,
And Gryphius, and blunt John Day
And Badius, Frober, Estienne.
And that long line of Flander’s men
New-sprung when maimed Chris Plantin turned
To type-craft for the bread he earned.
Now honoured be, in later years,
Bodoni and the Elzevirs,
And artist Caslon who gave grace
And contour to the letter-face,
And Pickeringof the Chiswick Press,
And Baskerville, and Foulis no less,
But mostly Morris, seer and mage
Who glorified the printed page.
To state her kings, to church her saints,
But we, apostles of old Maintz,
Exalt the names of those who wrought
For pride of craft and praise of Thought.
(From Printers’ Ink)
8: MARTHA AT SUNSET
There were ten seconds, hardly more,
When all horizons held the dye
Of sunset; west to east, that sky
Of cirrus kindled rosily.
Martha, the handmaid from next door,
Along the walk went slouching by
To dump stale refuse in the bin.
She passed me with her odorous tin
Beneath a dome of madrepore.
‘Martha’, I pleaded silently,
‘Look up!’ But no. With echoing din
Clang went the lid. Her feet once more
Crunched on the gravel walk, The sky
Deepened about its glowing core
And turned to opal gradually.
Never again will time restore
That beauty to the human eye-
That miracle, that burning sky-
But Martha, unimpressed, went in.
Careful for many things?…Yes, more
Than pious Mary knows, or I.
Pots rattled; Martha banged the door.
(published in The Heaton Review, 1932)
9: THE SLUMS
That day, a little cynical, you took
A way that led through poorer streets. ‘A new
Experience?’ You said, half mocking. ‘Look…
To see this kind of thing is good for you.’
Along a vista hung with lines of rags
Tired women on their doorsteps sat inert
And children played upon the filthy flags.
I saw the squalid ugliness, the dirt
And in a vision I beheld my flowers
My lawns, my peace…my life, secure, exempt
From toil and hardship all its sheltered hours.
Was it in cruel jest or in contempt
You took that byway so that I might see
The face of fear, and called it ‘good for me’?
10: THE TWO BECKS
Sweet with laughter, wild of will,
The Beck like a hoyden romps downhill;
The Beck like a blythe brown gypsy follows
Her wayward course through the valley hollow.
Here with swifter strength comes down
The Red Beck, singing, to clasp the Brown.
Out of the hill’s heart strides he, shaking
His Viking locks in his bright awakening.
Laughter, rapture, song and gleam-
Here he startles her maiden dream.
Here from the roots of the beechen cover
Flashes her tawny-bearded lover.
Swiftness, gladness, gleam and song-
You may spy on them all day long.
Here where others who meet must sever
Red Beck and Brown Beck tryst for ever.
(Originally published in ‘Northern Broadsheet’, 1956, edited by Dorothy Una Ratcliffe. The poem refers to the converging watercourses in Heaton Woods, a short distance from Alberta Vickridge’s home).