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The Golf Links -- Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn

       
(Poem #216) The Golf Links
 The golf links lie so near the mill
       That almost every day
 The laboring children can look out
       And see the men at play.
-- Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn
A short but powerful poem. Recalling my comment on four-line humorous poems:

   [The four line form] allows a little more buildup than a couplet, while
   preserving the added impact that comes from having the punchline coincide
   with the first rhyme

one can see that pretty much the same applies here, except that the
'punchline' is calculated for impact rather than humour. The topic is, of
course, indicative of Cleghorn's stance as a socialist (see the biography).

Personally, the understated commentary in the poem is just as effective as
some of the more extended rants and graphic descriptions I've seen - it
makes nice use of the dissonance the last line sets up in the reader's mind.

Biography:

  Gaskell, Elizabeth Cleghorn

  née Stevenson
  b. Sept. 29, 1810, Chelsea, London, Eng.
  d. Nov. 12, 1865, near Alton, Hampshire English novelist, short-story
  writer, and first biographer of Charlotte Brontë.

  She was a daughter of a Unitarian minister. When her mother died, she
  was brought up by a maternal aunt in the Cheshire village of Knutsford
  in a kindly atmosphere of rural gentility that was already
  old-fashioned at the time. In 1832 she married William Gaskell, a
  Unitarian minister, and settled in the overcrowded, problem-ridden
  industrial city of Manchester, which remained her home for the rest of
  her life. Domestic life--the Gaskells had six children, of whom four
  daughters lived to adulthood--and the social and charitable
  obligations of a minister's wife claimed her time but not all her
  thoughts. She did not begin her literary career until middle life,
  when the death of her only son had intensified her sense of community
  with the poor and her desire to "give utterance" to their "agony." Her
  first novel, Mary Barton, reflects the temper of Manchester in the
  late 1830s. It is the story of a working-class family in which the
  father, John Barton, lapses into bitter class hatred during a cyclic
  depression and carries out a retaliatory murder at the behest of his
  trade union. Its timely appearance in the revolutionary year of 1848
  brought the novel immediate success, and it won the praise of Charles
  Dickens and Thomas Carlyle. Dickens invited her to contribute to his
  magazine, Household Words, where her next major work, Cranford (1853),
  appeared. This social history of a gentler era, which describes,
  without sentimentalizing or satirizing, her girlhood village of
  Knutsford and the efforts of its shabby-genteel inhabitants to keep up
  appearances, has remained her most popular work.

  The conflict between Mrs. Gaskell's sympathetic understanding and the
  strictures of Victorian morality resulted in a mixed reception for her
  next social novel, Ruth (1853). It offered an alternative to the
  seduced girl's traditional progress to prostitution and an early
  grave.

  Among the many friends attracted by Mrs. Gaskell was Charlotte Brontë,
  who died in 1855 and whose biography Charlotte's father, Patrick
  Brontë, urged her to write. The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857),
  written with warmhearted admiration, disposed of a mass of firsthand
  material with unforced narrative skill. It is at once a work of art
  and a well-documented interpretation of its subject.

  Among her later works, Sylvia's Lovers (1863), dealing with the impact
  of the Napoleonic Wars upon simple people, is notable. Her last and
  longest work, Wives and Daughters (1864-66), concerning the
  interlocking fortunes of two or three country families, is considered
  by many her finest. It was left unfinished at her death.

                  -- EB

55 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

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For the past five years I have been facilitating economic justice workshops.
I had read this poem several decades ago in Seldes' The Great Quotations. I
am still awestruck by its power. Last year, near the close of our annual EAR
Summer Institute, I asked everyone to envision a world of economic justice,
an economy where "people matter." In introducing this exercise, I recited
this poem as an example of what we did not want to return to. The group of
about thirty people were immediately silent and thoughtful. The power of
Cleghorn's words endure.

Peace,

Jerry Bone,
Coordinator, Project EAR (Economics in the Appalachian Region)
Commission on Religion in Appalachia

The cultivation and expansion of needs is the antithesis of wisdom.
It is also the antithesis of freedom and peace.
Every increase of needs tends to increase one's dependence on outside forces
over which one cannot have control, and therefore increases existential fear.
Only by a reduction of needs can one promote a genuine reduction in those
tensions which are the ultimate causes of strife and war.

E. F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered

Ian Baillieu said...

Query: Does the Biography given above relate to the right
person? Various Internet sites attribute this poem to an
American writer Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn who died in 1959.

donna.peak said...

This was not written as a four line poem. It is a Quatrain of the poem "Through the Needle's Eye" by Sarah Cleghorn in 1916.

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