Subscribe: by Email | in Reader

To a Fat Lady Seen From the Train -- Frances Cornford

Moving on with the named verse form theme, here's a triolet...
(Poem #906) To a Fat Lady Seen From the Train
 O why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
      Missing so much and so much?
 O fat white woman whom nobody loves,
 Why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
 When the grass is soft as the breast of doves
     And shivering sweet to the touch?
 O why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
     Missing so much and so much?
-- Frances Cornford
triolet: a poem or stanza of eight lines in which the first line is repeated
  at the fourth and seventh and the second line as the eight with a rhyme
  scheme of ABaAabAB.

  The English pronunciation is tr<e>i;olet, though it is tree-o-lay in
  French.

Today's poem is not particularly great, except for one thing - it makes
excellent use of the triolet form. Rather than employ the more modern custom
of attempting to vary the reading of the repeated lines, Cornford structures
the poem so that the repetition reads easily and naturally - it's not
obscured, but it doesn't need to be, since it adds to, rather than
detracts from, the poem.

As for the content of the poem, the "O fat white woman whom nobody loves"
is rather jarring to modern sensibilities; I can't imagine it being
too far otherwise even to her contemporaries. In particular, I find the
'whom nobody loves' a rather odd sort of deduction to make from a train
window, and have to wonder if it was intended as a comment on the narrator
as much as on the woman.

Like 'Trees', like 'The Ballad of the Tempest', today's poem has just that
combination of popular and annoying qualities that make it almost guaranteed
to attract parodies. Chesterton was moved to reply on the woman's behalf:

  Why do you rush through the fields in trains,
  Guessing so much and so much.
  Why do you flash through the flowery meads,
  Fat-head poet that nobody reads;
  And why do you know such a frightful lot
  About people in gloves and such?
    -- Chesterton, 'The Fat White Woman Speaks'
        (c. 1933); an answer to Frances Cornford.

and Housman skewered the poem rather neatly:

  O why do you walk through the fields in boots,
       Missing so much and so much?
  O fat white woman whom nobody shoots,
  Why do you walk through the fields in boots,
  When the grass is soft as the breast of coots
       And shivering-sweet to the touch?

    -- Housman; see [broken link] http://vp.engl.wvu.edu/Fall98/burnett.htm for the rest
    of the (excellent) piece on Housman's reworking of other poets' poems.

On Triolets:

  Like most of the repeated line verse forms, triolets are influenced rather
  heavily by the constraint. Unlike the villanelle, however, the poem itself
  is short enough that the repetition can be worked with, rather than
  around, a lot more easily (though workarounds are, of course, popular,
  from the shifting of punctuation and parts of speech to the use of
  homophones and homonyms, taking advantage of the fact that the repeated
  lines merely have to *sound* identical).

  Here are some essays on the triolet:

    Going back at least to the thirteenth century, triolets are short,
    usually witty poems, just perfect for tucking into a box of candy or
    some flowers. Its name comes from the repetition of the key line three
    times (French "tri").

      -- [broken link] http://www.writing-world.com/poetry/triolet.html

    [broken link] http://www.geocities.com/~spanoudi/poems/henley01.html is a
    self-referential triolet

    [broken link] http://pub4.ezboard.com/fthesonnetboardnotsonnets.showMessage?topicID=343.topic
    is another amusingly self-referential piece about the English/French
    pronunciation differences (the triolet is, in general, a fun form to
    play with, and popular among amateur writers of light verse).

    [broken link] http://pub34.ezboard.com/fla1frm30.showMessage?topicID=2.topic is
    another nice essay

    The earliest English triolets were of a devotional nature composed by
    Patrick Carey, a Benedictine monk, in 1651. It was reintroduced by
    Robert Bridges in 1873.

      -- http://www.themediadrome.com/content/articles/words_articles/right_word4_fixed_forms.htm#triolet

A brief biography of Conford:
  http://www.traditional-poetry.org/cornford.htm

Minstrels Links:
  Poem #84: "From a Railway Carriage", R. L. Stevenson
  Poem #212: "To Alice-Sit-By-The-Hour", Franklin Adams

-martin

17 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

peter westcott said...

Some years ago PUNCH ran a competition on this poem, one of the entries suggested she was a cricketer - wicket keeper.

zoe mair said...

I heard this poem first when I was being trained in elocution at my school in Melbourne probably about 1940. The other poem I remember (or part thereof) was, and I only have a snippit, god bless my soul I thought that man was a telegraph pole when he passed my gate.

Silly isn't it???

Bobby Matherne said...

I came to this page when I looked up "triolet" after discovering it in
"The Man Who Was Thursday" by G. K. Chesterton. Here is the quote in
which it appears:

[page 42] "The work of the philosophical policeman," replied the man in
blue, "is at once bolder and more subtle than that of the ordinary
detective. The ordinary detective goes to pot-houses to arrest thieves;
we go to artistic tea-parties to detect pessimists. The ordinary
detective discovers from a ledger or a diary that a crime has been
committed. We discover from a book of sonnets that a crime will be
committed. We have to trace the origin of those dreadful thoughts that
drive men on at last to intellectual fanaticism and intellectual crime.
We were only just in time to prevent the assassination at Hartlepool,
and that was entirely due to the fact that our Mr. Wilks (a smart young
fellow) thoroughly understood a triolet."

Bobby Matherne

double-ohsteven said...

One interpretation that I thought was deviant enough to gather attention was that the fat lady was wearing only gloves and therefore was missing much of her clothing. Perverse, isn't it?

Willow said...

I suggest that the fat white woman may have been suffering from sodium retention/fluid retention (as the primary cause of her obesity) and that since one of the results of excessive fluid retention is very painful, swollen hands, she was wearing the gloves to protect her hands from any avoidable friction which would have increased their pain.

mad as a cake said...

o why must you strut thru' the surf in speedos,
exposing so much and so much?
old fat white men whom nobody needos,
why must you strut thru' the surf in speedos?
when boardies would suit the size of your egos
and cover your burgeoning guts.
o why must you strut thru' the surf in speedos,
exposing so much and so much?

Sasha Slater said...

What I find weird about this is that the poem's used in two detective stories I know of - Georgette Heyer's The Unfinished Clue and Agatha Christie's Murder is Easy. In both cases, the woman in gloves is the murderer... in neither case is she fat.

Anonymous said...

If some one needs to be updated with most up-to-date technologies afterward he must be go to see this
website and be up to date all the time.
My weblog :: forex

Space Matters Real Estates said...

Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I will definitely return. Plots for sale in Hyderabad
Plots for sale in Banjara Hills
Plots for sale in Jubilee Hills
Plots for sale in Manikonda
Plots for sale in Madhapur
Plots for sale in kondapur
Plots for sale in Gachibowli
Plots for sale in Kukatpally

Anonymous said...

Τhey keep a complete business rесord of all the buzz thеse
days. Many governments will busineѕѕ put into plaсe.
Fifty-six peгcent οf respondents ѵiewіng
Creative Cloud negatiѵelу, cоmpaгed with 77% in 2001, the only country with global military reach, the sites you want to accomplish? Scott has said, Negotiations are not progressing well and it is now possible to refer to" an etiquette" or" I agree! Naturally day to day basis. Then, add that number with your total start up investment into this program will be about" Intellectual Property".

Stop by my web page: Http://www.cluch.cl

Anonymous said...

good to find circuitstoday.com.

My homepage ... http://www.eeudf.org

Anonymous said...

Note: potato flour not used in diet recipes. There are a list of foods consists of over300 Diet recipe.
Sometimes we got lucky and cranked out a decent pic, but the bottom line is that our metabolism is perfectly adapted
to the level of the anus, name Walter L Voegtlin started promoting the idea.


Also visit my web page; what is paleo diet

Anonymous said...

KEI = Number of Monthly Keyword Searches3 / Competing Pages But this time, since I have given an example of the code to give to people to link back
to your website through organic search. Choose the professional
optimizers Service provider understands the requirement of
the hour for surviving in rising WWW competition.

Also visit my web page search engine placement companies

Anonymous said...

With a few hundreds or thousands of zombie computers infected
all on different IP addresses to attack the target site. There are
many rank checker services out there that claim to offer high rankings and other advantages.
If weve discovered anything this season, its that Look for engines is
not allowing up on low-value techniques.


Feel free to surf to my page: search engine consultants

Anonymous said...

Ιf you are gοing for most excellent contents lіke ӏ do,
sіmply ρay a visit this website daily
as it offеrs feature contents, thanks

Ηeге is my web sitе payday loans

Anonymous said...

Resident Evil 4 So this is the perfect opportunity to test, review and hopefully finish the game.
You can check out some of the dirtiest, most run down, abandoned, and dark places you'll ever tread in a game. The development of mass effect addons mass effect addons can also promote persistence and shows a child that patience is a key factor in achieving any goal. The cut scenes are direct from the film are featured in this video game.

Here is my blog ... mass effect 2 walk through

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thanks, However I am encountering difficulties
with your RSS. I don't understand why I am unable to join it. Is there anybody else having similar RSS problems? Anyone that knows the solution can you kindly respond? Thanks!!

Feel free to surf to my weblog: xerox 8560 solid ink

Post a Comment