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Posted by: Zoe (
Date: July 06, 2003 08:23AM

I would like to discuss the following two poems. I would be glad of the forum's opinions.


Jenny Joseph (1932-?)

When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other peoples' gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Ellen Sturgis Hooper. (18161841)

I slept, and dreamed that life was Beauty;
I woke, and found that life was Duty. 1
Was thy dream then a shadowy lie?
Toil on, poor heart, unceasingly;
And thou shalt find thy dream to be
A truth and noonday light to thee.

Re: Duty
Posted by: dennis (
Date: July 06, 2003 02:48PM

I'll bet she never did take up spitting in public. Wonderful attention
to the patterns of sounds. best dlc

Re: Duty
Posted by: Pam Adams (
Date: July 07, 2003 05:10PM

Well, to compare between the two- Joseph is saying in the third stanza what Hooper says- that we must fulfill our duties. Joseph's poem thinks about the time when we can blow off our duties and live to please ourselves. The Hooper is using the more 'religious' sense of 'do your duty and earn a reward in heaven.'


Re: Duty
Posted by: dennis (
Date: August 08, 2003 11:19AM

The first poem doesn't have meter. The rythym is constantly broken.
I've read more poetic prose. Since it's in short lines and stanzas they
would probably call it poetry today. I think she is already wearing purple.

The second poem is quite sweet. My only objection is that the writer
either awkwardly changes person-in one stanza or, is actually three
people in concourse-sort of a short poem for that. Truely, duty is the
beauty which is, a productive life.

Re: Duty
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: August 08, 2003 01:11PM

I take it you have changed your mind since the post on 7/6/03? I suspect a case could me made for it being (mostly) blank verse, in any case.

Re: Duty
Posted by: barrel master (
Date: August 10, 2003 02:13AM

ha ha. I loved the second one. It ryhmes good.

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