Sunday, August 16, 2009
Poem by artist Alice R. Huger Smith
From the typescript of the memoirs of my great-aunt Miss Maria H. Heyward (page 94 ff):
“I think that there is in Charleston one person who would like to spell Wappaoolah [Heyward family plantation]with all capital letters,and that is Alice R. Huger-Smith [artist of Charleston Renaissance and member of the Poetry Society]. She came to Wappaoolah from the time we were at school together at Miss Sass until our life there was over. She came every November for twelve years to be saturated with the country and to paint it. A visit to her studio is seldom made without hearing the name Wappaoolah. Her friendship and her sister Caroline’s are. . .of those inherited ones that are sometimes so strong. In the Diary [Heyward family diary] in Alice’s writing is this delightful and very true poem.”
[see the Gibbes Museum web site for a look at the art work of Miss Alice http://gibbesmuseum.pastperfectonline.com/36029cgi/mweb.exe?request=keyword;dtype=d;keyword=alice]
Three lovely maids a’fishing went,
On mighty deeds their minds intent.
For Loti meant to catch a whale
And Marie hoped to fill a pail
With minnows rare—while Alice small
Was wishing she might catch at all,
And dark forebodings lined her brow,
For she had never fished till now.
They sat them on a muddy bank
And round them ranged in rank on rank
You might have viewed the biscuit white
And goober fair—a goodly sight—
For beauteous maids, however sweet,
Find vast delight in things to eat.
They sat them on this muddy slope
And ate and ate with fond wild hope
That fascinated fish would flow
In streams to see this pretty show.
First Alice with discretion great
Declared she knew not how to bait
Her hook—which showed her sense, for then
T’was done for her by Marie’s ten
Fair fingers—if you’ve tried the same
You’ll praise her sense, see why it came.
So, as I’ve mentioned once before
They sat upon this muddy shore
And ate and fished, until a roar
Of wild delight ran through the air,
And strange to say a fish lay there
Upon the roadside gleaming fair
A fair and cheering sight.
And Alice in loud accents cries
Waving her rod from side to side,
“A bite—a glorious bite!”
And then excitement reigned supreme
And saw fulfilled each heavenly dream.
And Marie followed this example,
And of her skill showed forth a sample.
But then these two grown puffed and proud
At Loti fair laughed long and loud,
And jeered at her—and asked her why
Her line lay idle—did she try?
They showed themselves a witty pair
Of humor sharp—sarcasm rare.
But wily Loti bode in peace,
Nor e’en requested them to cease
Their irritating chattering—
But sudden with great splattering
She flung into the ether blue
A monstrous trout—(This fact is true.)
She told me that without a doubt
Two yards it measured, but might shrink
When it was cooked—what do you think?
This monstrous trout, it flaps around
With such a force, it shakes the ground.
Into the stream to leap it tries
And anxious fear shines in their eyes.
And as the fish now twists and flops
In spasms round him Marie hops
And Loti—with melodious yell—
Cries, “Sit on him, and all is well.”
While little Alice, pale, yet green,
(A paradox) gazed at the scene,
And added her faint little squeak,
Which sometimes rose into a shriek.
But if I told all that occurred
In stirring phrase and glowing word,
Your brain might reel—and if t’were weak
In words to this effect you’d speak,
“Go tell that tale, my little friend,
To the Marines”—so I will end.