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Overheard on a Salmarsh -- Harold Monro

An irresistible follow up to yesterday's poem...
(Poem #594) Overheard on a Salmarsh
 Nymph, nymph, what are your beads?

 Green glass, goblin. Why do you stare at them?

 Give them me.
         No.

 Give them me. Give them me.
                 No.

 Then I will howl all night in the reeds,
 Lie in the mud and howl for them.

 Goblin, why do you love them so?

 They are better than stars or water,
 Better than voices of winds that sing,
 Better than any man's fair daughter,
 Your green glass beads on a silver ring.

 Hush, I stole them out of the moon.

 Give me your beads, I want them.
                 No.

 I will howl in the deep lagoon
 For your green glass beads, I love them so.
 Give them me. Give them.
               No.
-- Harold Monro
Today's delightfully whimsical poem calls for little explanation - I just
like the image of a goblin and a nymph squabbling over a handful of green
glass beads. This is a genre of poetry that I loved as a child, both for its
playfulness and for the unexpected directions it would take my imagination,
and age has done little to diminish its appeal. And 'Overheard on a
Salmarsh' is an excellent example of the genre - simple, but startlingly
evocative; indeed I was surprised at how few words it took to conjure up a
detailed mental picture (doubtless straight out of an illustration to a book
of fairy tales, but then, that was probably precisely the intended effect).

The language too is that perfect mixture of the fairy-tale and the poetic
that reaches out to children without in any way condescending to them. And
this is truly a poem to be read aloud - try it and see how the rhymes, the
metre, the interspersed voices all come together in an utterly captivating
narrative.

Note:

I believe Salmarsh to be a corruption of saltmarsh (a sea-flooded marsh),
but can't confirm this. Can anyone shed some light on the issue?

Biography:

Harold Monro

  The publisher of the various anthologies of Georgian Poetry, Harold Monro,
  was born in Brussels in 1879. He describes himself as "author, publisher,
  editor and book-seller." Monro founded The Poetry Bookshop in London in
  1912, a unique establishment having as its object a practical relation
  between poetry and the public, and keeping in stock nothing but poetry,
  the drama, and books connected with these subjects. His quarterly Poetry
  and Drama (discontinued during the war and revived in 1919 as The Monthly
  Chapbook), was in a sense the organ of the younger men; and his shop, in
  which he has lived for the last seven years except while he was in the
  army, became a genuine literary center.

  Of Monro's books, the two most important are Strange Meetings (1917) and
  Children of Love (1919). "The Nightingale Near the House," one of the
  loveliest of his poems, is also one of his latest and has not yet appeared
  in any of his volumes.

        -- http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/poetry/poems/harold_monro.html

On Georgian Poetry:

  a variety of lyrical poetry produced in the early 20th century by an
  assortment of British poets, including Lascelles Abercrombie, Hilaire
  Belloc, Edmund Charles Blunden, Rupert Brooke, William Henry Davies, Ralph
  Hodgson, John Drinkwater, James Elroy Flecker, Wilfred Wilson Gibson,
  Robert Graves, Walter de la Mare, Harold Monro (editor of The Poetry
  Review), Siegfried Sassoon, Sir J.C. Squire, and Edward Thomas.

  Brooke and Sir Edward Marsh, wishing to make new poetry accessible to a
  wider public, with Monro, Drinkwater, and Gibson, planned a series of
  anthologies. To this series they applied the name "Georgian" to suggest
  the opening of a new poetic age with the accession in 1910 of George V.
  Five volumes of Georgian Poetry, edited by Marsh, were published between
  1912 and 1922. (See Marsh, Sir Edward Howard.)

  The real gifts of Brooke, Davies, de la Mare, Blunden, and Hodgson should
  not be overlooked, but, taken as a whole, much of the Georgians' work was
  lifeless. It took inspiration from the countryside and nature, and in the
  hands of less gifted poets, the resulting poetry was diluted and
  middlebrow conventional verse of late Romantic character. "Georgian" came
  to be a pejorative term, used in a sense not intended by its progenitors:
  rooted in its period and looking backward rather than forward.

        -- EB

[Which is sad - at their best, poets like Flecker, Brooke and indeed Monro
were anything but lifeless. I have personally found considerable enjoyment
in leafing through collections of Georgian poetry. -m.]

Links:

Some poems similar in theme or mood: poem #252, poem #312.
and, of course, yesterday's poem #593.

We've run several other poems by Georgian poets - see the index at
[broken link] http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/index_poet.html

-martin

57 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Mixter Richard said...

Yes; "salmarsh" is a modestly archaic usage for "saltmarsh." The references
to reeds, mud, and (less correctly) a lagoon also confirm that the habitat
in which the characters play is a tidal saltmarsh, one of the most complex
and productive environments on the planet.

RWMixter

Thirdpres said...

This poem appeared in the classic book of children's verse 'Silver Pennies.'
It fascinated me as a child, entranced my children, and excited my
grandchildren. It captures exactly the mood of young children who are ready
to 'howl in the deep lagoon' if they don't get what they want.

Sincerely,

Charles J. (Charlie) Jefferson
Woodbridge, VA

Dr. Steven M. Carr said...

Thank you for this. I have used "Overhead on a Saltmarsh" for many years as
one of a set of poems for the cover page of my exams - something to
distract the mind while waiting for the fall of doom. I never listen to a
chorus of frogs without hearing the demand "give them me" and the answering
one-note refrain "no". My edition says "Saltmarsh" - I don't find
'salmarsh' in the complete OED.

Steve
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dr. Steven M. Carr |
Department of Biology | "Provehito in Altum"
Memorial University of Newfoundland |
St. John's NF A1B 3X9 CANADA |office / -4713 lab / -3018 FAX / -7498 dept
webpage: [broken link] http://www.mun.ca/biology/scarr/Research.htm

Helen Kirkby said...

This verse was and still is my favourite, the first time I ever read this was from a book entitled 'Second Book of Verse' by E.S. Holloway dated 1959 and published by Ginn and Company Limited, this really is a fantastic book of verse full of old favourites. I recently bought a book called magical verse and it was also listed in there.

Francesca Greenoak said...

From Francesca Greenoak

This poem stayed in my head for years. I learned it slightly differently
though. Might there be more than one version?

The last stanza went as I recall it

Then I will lie all night in the reeds
Lie in the mud and howl for them
Give me your green glass beads
I love them so

Give them me
Give them me

No

Francesca Greenoak said...

This poem stayed in my head for years. I learned it slightly differently
though. Might there be more than one version?
The last stanza went as I recall it
Then I will lie all night in the reeds
Lie in the mud and howl for them
Give me your green glass beads
I love them so
Give them me
Give them me
No

NB Please ignore this. I had simply forgotten where these lines went. They
occur of course earlier in the poem.

Best wishes
Francesca

D Brian said...

I love the poem and have tried to memorize it. The following
version, different in just a few details, agrees better with my memory:

Overheard on a Saltmarsh

Nymph, nymph, what are your beads?

Green glass, goblin. Why do you stare at them?

Give them me.

No.

Give them me. Give them me.

No.

Then I will howl all night in the reeds,
Lie in the mud and howl for them.

Goblin, why do you love them so?

They are better than stars or water,
Better than voices of winds that sing,
Better than any man's fair daughter,
Your green glass beads on a silver ring.

Hush, I stole them out of the moon.

Give me your beads, I desire them.

No.

I will howl in a deep lagoon
For your green glass beads, I love them so.
Give them me. Give them.

No.

-Harold Monro

D. Carmichael said...

I remember this poem from my childhood & have tried to find the words for years. Couldn't recall the title, so that's why its taken the advent of the search engine to find it at last! Thank you.

Ray Spencer said...

This poem brought back buried memories of reciting it at the annual Musical Festival as a school child in Hull, Yorkshire ,England. The words are just wonderful and conjure up incredible mind pictures. Truly amazing and thank you so much for having it available to my 'search engine'. I actually saw the poem mentioned in John Bayley's book 'Iris' which started off the memories. I was so excited when I found the words here. E.S. New Zealand

Glass Benjamin D said...

yes, I'm trying to find a copy of the poetry book
"silver pennies", does anyone know where I might find it?
thank you-Ben

Raymond Parsons said...

Just wanted to share with you that silver pennies was one of my mother's
favorite books and then mine too. she died this year and somewhere among her
belongings is the book with unfortunately my own crayon scribbles on it.
won't sell it if i find it of course, but i've seen other copies for sale on
the internet. good luck!
marietta angelotti

Genevieve Gates said...

I thought I had lost my book containing this poem, so I tried the net and was thrilled to see it come up and I also enjoyed the comments from people all over the world who love this poem as much as I do. I am still looking for " green glass beads on a silver ring", stolen from the moon but alas have never found any necklace of such beauty. I have always considered it a very difficult poem to read aloud successfully.
Thank you,
Genevieve Gates.

Craven Cottage said...

My 20 yearold granddaughter found the poem for me on the search engine Google. I remember parts of it from back in the late 40's when I was at school in London. Isn't amazing how many of us from all over the world have the same feelings about this poem, the word pictures etc. I've always wanted to find it again. Thankyou all and especially my Sarah.
Jean Frankland
Queensland, Australia.

Kirby said...

you probably found a copy of "silver pennies" by now, but if not, I have seen several on Ebay at different times.

David Lettvin said...

In Walter de la Mare's wonderful anthology 'Come Hither' the title of
the poem is given as 'Overheard on a Saltmarsh'.

The anthology has, I believe, been republished as a two volume trade
paperback.

David Lettvin said...

Part of the previous message was deleted. This poem appears in Walter de
la Mare's wonderful anthology 'Come Hither' as 'Overheard on a
Saltmarsh'. This anthology is the one that I said had been republished.

David Lettvin said...

Part of the previous messages were deleted. This poem appears in Walter
de la Mare's wonderful anthology 'Come Hither' as 'Overheard on a
Saltmarsh'. This anthology is the one that I said had been republished.

David Lettvin said...

Part of the message was deleted. This poem appears in Walter de la
Mare's wonderful anthology 'Come Hither' as 'Overheard on a Saltmarsh'.
This anthology is the one that I said had been republished.

Sue Gabbay said...

Just discovered this on the Internet and am delighted. I have wanted the
exact words for use with two hand puppets I will make--I volunteer at a
school with stories occasionally and this is a perfect puppet dialogue.

kirsten said...

My four year old son and I have been exploring poetry in an old Childcraft (Worldbook publishers) poetry book my mum read from when I was a child. His favourite is "A Modern Dragon" by Bowena Bastin Bennett and "Overheard in a Saltmarsh" by Harold Monroe. The poem has captured my attention, now, also. I especially liked the comment about hearing frogs in a salt marsh by the teacher at Memorial University. How encouraging to know such a pure love and joy to the poem exists even the stress of "academia". I am now exploring the idea of putting the lines to music in the tradition of the "art song". Does anyone out there know if this has been done before for "Overheard in a Saltmarsh"?

Anthony Weenink
teacher and musician
Winnipeg, MB

Fleurdelisette said...

I found the them! I found the green glass three rows of them caught up with
a silver clasp, in a silver ring. Put them on and the poem woke up and called
out "Goblin why do you love them so?" and "Hush - I stole them out of the
moon!" These voices! I first heard them in the book we all remember, "Silver
Pennies", loved the mysterious glimmering beads in the marsh, the strange
creatures dying of their cravings for them. Somehow I knew that I would be one of
those creatures myself, dying for love of the unattainable, willing to steal
them out of the moon -- anything, to have them be mine!

Ah, but, foolish in love I gave them away. And for forty years I've wondered
where it is, and if he, if anyone, bothered to read them, those strange
little poems for strange people. Or did he give them away too, give them perhaps
to his new love? Oh, foolish me, to give away a poem in a book, that lasts --
give it away for love, which never lasts.

Where are you, little book? I am searching for you, and maybe someday I will
find you -- my own copy, given me by my grandmother -- my own, I say! But
any one will do, so I begin my search.

Maybe one day in a bookstore I will meet one of you, and how surprised we'll
be to find ourselves in the same place: "Funny, it looks like we're both
after the same book." "Yes, it is, isn't it? Do you remember these funny old
verses -- there was one about a Goblin and a nymph, and green glass beads..."
"Hush! I stole them out of the moon!" "We must go somewhere and sit together so
that we can talk about this -- that was your favorite?" "Yes, but I can't
remember the name." "It's called 'Overheard on a Saltmarsh'" "That's it --
you've got it! After all these years, I never forgot." "Which are you?" "Pardon"
"Which are you -- ymph or Goblin?" "Oh please!" "Sorry! I feel like noth of
them are me. Listen, why don't we go somewhere, maybe have a coffee." :Why?"
"Well, uh, so we can sit and maybe talk about the poem, you know, and where we
first heard it, and why we remember it so well, and all that... But if you
don't wish to..." "Oh no! We'll go to Harrods for tea, they won't be too
crowded right now, and we can..." "You're very kind." "Kind" "Yes, well I, we,
just met and I, I thought we... but of course you.. oh, well, I could always, or
we..." "Come on -- I see a taxi!
"Fine, fine, that's good. Or else I'll howl all night in the deep lagoon, I
love them so!"

Richard said...

Hello,

My name is Richard Francis. I am trying to locate Rick Mixter who used
to work for West as an editor. I had a contract with West (for a math
series) and Rick was my editor. The last contact I had with Rick, he was
an editor for another company I cannot recall.

I have some material I would like to discuss with Rick either as an
editor or a friend that can point me in the right direction. If you are
my editor of days gone by, please contact me.

Thank you,

Richard Francis

Stacy West said...

This poem was in my favorite book as a child, Silver Pennies.
Below you will find a link to that book's Table of Contents. It is
Saltmarsh.

[broken link] http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader//ref=sib_dp_bod_toc/?ie=UTF8&p=S00M#reader-link

Stacy West
Communication & Media
College of Arts & Sciences
ECSUnthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. -Einstein

Liz Wright said...

I have searched and searched for this and i am so thrilled to have found it. age 4 it was the first poem we ever heard at school and it scared me. now i love its beauty. its desolation, give me them, give me them no.

Gordon Johns Hooker said...

Greetings -

........it has been almost forty years, but I still remember playing guitar
on the Common with David Alcibiades Lettvin and being the only one in that
group who knew the old Greek General.

Your memory came up when I heard someone play "My Daddy's a Deep Sea Diver"
last night and remembered that as a song David taught me all those times
ago.

I believe I taught you the finger-picking version of "Yankee Doodle" and
shared with you an interest in John Fahey, Robbie Basho, etc.

After 20+/- years as a sea Captain, I am "retired" in VT working on a novel
based upon my experiences, still playing guitar, trying to bridge the awful
gap between me and Chopin on my piano, etc.

I hope this finds you well.

John

<tuxedojohn@ yahoo.com>

Rosa Adams said...

Hello --" green glass beads on a silver ring ," i too saw them this very xmas in a little shop down an alleyway in Cardiff just as i was hurrying to catch the train.
__ Nymph Nymph did you lose them, were they stolen from you ,were they spirited away to wait for me in the little shop in a little alleyway in Cardiff.
I took them home and devoured them , then gave them to another who may discover their magic, look at them and see the moon and howl all night for love and longing .

forgive me writing -- one of my favourites i have kept it on my pc for years, then today i read for the first time the comments. Yours were as evocative as the poem itself .just had to write and say so . Rosa

Mary Drennan said...

From Mary Drennan Dorset

I had never heard of Harold Monro or the poem (which is truly delightful) until I read Claire Tomalin's book about Katherine Mansfield = A Secret Life. Now, thanks to the Internet, I have advanced my education.
I should explain I went to Grammar School over 65 years ago.

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Anonymous said...

Nt Hong Kong students just came second in the HK Speech Festival, reciting this poem!

We said it as a whimsical piece, most other schools said it as an aggressive poem, the goblin more like a devil!

I didn't like it much when I first read it, wondered how we'd put life into it, but we did really well!
One of the teachers brought back lovely glittery glass beads from China...our Nymph looked beautiful!

Anonymous said...

After reading all the comments above on that wonderful and fondly remembered exchange between the nymph and the goblin, and full of hope, I too have just sent for a copy of Silver Pennies.

I'm crossing my fingers that I'll find other dear memories from my early schooldays - when we still learnt and recited poems - that continue to haunt us!

Many thanks to all those who helped put me on the track of this anthology.

Anonymous said...

CLAUDIA---I ALSO LEARNT THIS POEM AT SCHOOL AND MANY YEARS LATER WHEN I TAUGHT BALLET ARRANGED IT AS A DUET WITH THE NYMPH AND THE GOBLIN----WHEN I PUT IT IN A BALLET DISPLAY IT WAS LISTED AS "OVERHEARD ON A SALT MARSH" AND I GOT THE COMPARE TO RECITE THE POEM SO THAT THE AUDIENCE KNEW WHAT IT WAS ABOUT

Anonymous said...

I found this poem in a book on handwriting many years ago at school & I've been looking for it all my adult life Tonight at last here it is. It's haunted me I knew it as 'overheard in a marsh'

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Anonymous said...

I am doing this poem in drama in school. I play the nymph. I quite like the poem! :-)

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Unknown said...

I have not yet seen or heard it being done as of yet. However I would really enjoy this. I know your post is old but let me know if you ever got around to doing this.
Thank you

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