Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fourth Annual Genealogy Poetry Challenge: Portsmouth, Hampshire

It is time for me to share my selection for the Fourth Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge hosted by West in New England.
Find a poem by a local poet, famous or obscure, from the region one of your ancestors lived in. It can be about an historical event, a legend, a person, or even about some place (like a river)or a local animal. It can even be a poem you or one of your ancestors have written! Or if you prefer, post the lyrics of a song or a link to a video of someone performing the song...If you submit a humorous poem or song that will be entered under the "Willy Puckerbrush" division. Willy was the late geneablogger Terry Thornton's alias for some humorous posts and comments. [Deadline: November 18th]
  • For the Third Annual Genealogy Poetry Challenge, I shared a poem by Chaim Bialik, representing my ancestors from Volhynia, Russia.
  • For the Second Annual Genealogy Poetry Challenge, I submitted the song, Texas our Texas, representing my ancestors from the Lone Star State
  • For the First Annual Genealogy Poetry Challenge, I shared a poem by Emilius Buczi, representing my Hungarian ancestors, Julian Ursin Niemciwicz, representing my Polish and Lithuanian ancestors, and T.S. Eliot, representing my hometown of St. Louis, as well as my London ancestors, since he was an ex-pat.
This year I decided to return to England and find a poet or poets from there, preferably from Hampshire, where my Denyer and Goldfinch ancestors were from, and more specifically, from Portsmouth.  I soon realized I had several choices.

Rudyard Kipling spent six years of his childhood (age 5-11) in Portsmouth. However, most everyone is familiar with the poetry of Kipling.

I found another two authors who were born in Portsmouth, very well-known for their fiction. I went in search to see if I could find some poetry, and I did. Both of these poems display wit possibly suitable for the Willy Puckerbrush division of this challenge.


This first poem is not only in honor of my Portsmouth ancestry, but also the blacksmith trade.

I have several ancestral blacksmiths:
My 2nd great grandfather, Selig Dudelsack/Feinstein
My 7th great grandfather, Burger Van Iveren
My 8th great grandfather, Myndert Fredericksen

The humor in this poem should be obvious to even the least artful old codger - as it is forged on word-play.


The Blacksmith
Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

Old England, she has great warriors,
Great princes, and poets great;
But the Blacksmith is not to be quite forgot,
In the history of the State.

He is rich in the best of all metals,
Yet silver he lacks and gold;
And he payeth his due, and his heart is true,
Though he bloweth both hot and cold.

The boldest is he of incendiaries
That ever the wide world saw,
And a forger as rank as e'er robbed the Bank,
Though he never doth break the law.

He hath shoes that are worn by strangers,
Yet he laugheth and maketh more;
And a share (concealed) in the poor man's field,
Yet it adds to the poor man's store.

Then, hurrah for the iron Blacksmith!
And hurrah for his iron crew!
And whenever we go where his forges glow,
We'll sing what A MAN can do.


It doesn't take the world's greatest detective to identify the following poem as satire. If I were to offer some literary criticism, I'd say the author should have shown faith in his readers, and omitted the final stanza.


The Bigot - 1919
Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)

The foolish Roman fondly thought
That gods must be the same to all,
Each alien idol might be brought
Within their broad Pantheon Hall.
The vision of a jealous Jove
Was far above their feeble ken;
They had no Lord who gave them love,
But scowled upon all other men.

But in our dispensation bright,
What noble progress have we made!
We know that we are in the light,
And outer races in the shade.
Our kindly creed ensures us this—
That Turk and infidel and Jew
Are safely banished from the bliss
That's guaranteed to me and you.

The Roman mother understood
That, if the babe upon her breast
Untimely died, the gods were good,
And the child's welfare manifest.
With tender guides the soul would go
And there, in some Elysian bower,
The tiny bud plucked here below
Would ripen to the perfect flower.

Poor simpleton! Our faith makes plain
That, if no blest baptismal word
Has cleared the babe, it bears the stain
Which faithless Adam had incurred.
How philosophical an aim!
How wise and well-conceived a plan
Which holds the new-born babe to blame
For all the sins of early man!

Nay, speak not of its tender grace,
But hearken to our dogma wise:
Guilt lies behind that dimpled face,
And sin looks out from gentle eyes.
Quick, quick, the water and the bowl!
Quick with the words that lift the load!
Oh, hasten, ere that tiny soul
Shall pay the debt old Adam owed!

The Roman thought the souls that erred
Would linger in some nether gloom,
But somewhere, sometime, would be spared
To find some peace beyond the tomb.
In those dark halls, enshadowed, vast,
They flitted ever, sad and thin,
Mourning the unforgotten past
Until they shed the taint of sin.

And Pluto brooded over all
Within that land of night and fear,
Enthroned in some dark Judgment Hall,
A god himself, reserved, austere.
How thin and colourless and tame!
Compare our nobler scheme with it,
The howling souls, the leaping flame,
And all the tortures of the pit!

Foolish half-hearted Roman hell!
To us is left the higher thought
Of that eternal torture cell
Whereto the sinner shall be brought.
Out with the thought that God could share
Our weak relenting pity sense,
Or ever condescend to spare
The wretch who gave Him just offence!

'Tis just ten thousand years ago
Since the vile sinner left his clay,
And yet no pity can he know,
For as he lies in hell to-day
So when ten thousand years have run
Still shall he lie in endless night.
O God of Love! O Holy One!
Have we not read Thy ways aright?

The godly man in heaven shall dwell,
And live in joy before the throne,
Though somewhere down in nether hell
His wife or children writhe and groan.
From his bright Empyrean height
He sees the reek from that abyss—
What Pagan ever dreamed a sight
So holy and sublime as this!

Poor foolish folk! Had they begun
To weigh the myths that they professed,
One hour of reason and each one
Would surely stand a fraud confessed.
Pretending to believe each deed
Of Theseus or of Hercules,
With fairy tales of Ganymede,
And gods of rocks and gods of trees!

No, no, had they our purer light
They would have learned some saner tale
Of Balaam's ass, or Samson's might,
Or prophet Jonah and his whale,
Of talking serpents and their ways,
Through which our foolish parents strayed,
And how there passed three nights and days
Before the sun or moon was made!


O Bigotry, you crowning sin!
All evil that a man can do
Has earthly bounds, nor can begin
To match the mischief done by you—
You, who would force the source of love
To play your small sectarian part,
And mould the mercy from above
To fit your own contracted heart.


Anonymous said...

Interesting post. The only poets I can claim any relation to are a distant connection to Ralph Waldo Emerson and also to a more obscure poet called Abram Ryan who was the poet priest of the Confederacy. The Abram Ryan link isn't proven, but likely, as he comes from the same small town in Ireland as my Ryan ancestors.

John said...

I'm not related to either Doyle or Dickens (or Kipling). I just have ancestors who were born in the same location they lived.

I am distantly related to Harold Hart Crane, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Robert Penn Warren, and the wife of HW Longfellow through my Stoughton ancestry.

Bill West said...

Two good choices by authors better known for prose than poetry. I had many blacksmith ancestors as well so I especially liked "The Blacksmith".

Thank for participating again, John!