Constance Savery's Verse CWS

Savery's Verse

Savery knew the difference between a true and a false rhyme, and she avoided the latter. When one of her lines had a metrical anomaly, it was intentional. She did not regard herself as a poet and disparaged much of what she wrote. Her verse was rarely published except as part of one of her own books or stories. Near the end of her life she did read twenty-one of the poems into a tape recorder and sent them to a correspondent, Agneta Thomson, who shared them with me. After Savery's death, her goddaughter, Mrs. E. C. W. Hummerstone, allowed me to copy out all the poems in a verse book that Savery kept at her bedside.

While the bedside book contained many dates, it was not uncommon for the poem used in a novel to be written decades before. Consequently, except for the first, which I consider part of my introduction, the verses are listed in alphabetical order according to title. Untitled verse is listed by its first line. You may look for unpublished poems in the manuscript section.

Magic Chant. All Saints Vicarage, Froxfield. In Winifred's Thought Book, p 5. about 1905. Reprinted in The Memoirs of Jack Chelwood, 2004, by Eric Schonblom, Buckhorn, KY, pp 54, 136, 163.

In November of 2004, after mailing the printed book blocks of The Memoirs of Jack Chelwood to the bookbinder, I drove eight hundred miles to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to visit the de Grummond Collection of children's books at the University of Southern Mississippi and peruse Savery's juvenilia, Winifred's Thought Book, in their manuscript collection. There I was astonished to discover the following lines written, probably, when Savery was eight:
Once round the Hulué stone,
Wind, wind, and round again,
Once more round!
They are not great poetry, so why the astonishment? Because those lines, virtually intact, are important to the plot of The Memoirs of Jack Chelwood, which Savery began in 1944, revised frequently throughout her lifetime, and identified as the finest of her novels. True, two changes in the chant were made for publication in Jack, but judge for yourself their significance:
Once round the heulë stone,
Wind, wind, and wind again,
Once more round.
For the previous eighteen months I had been searching the Internet and other references for the source of "heulë stone" only to find that it originated in a little girl's imagination. How Savery must have smiled when, needing a tropical island chant for her novel, she retrieved this one from her memory or a decades old piece of paper with childish handwriting. Readers who know more than I do about heulë stones are invited to correct me, but I will be saddened if you do.

Here begin my annotations of the other verses.

Blue Flowers. Peterborough: Arrival Press, 3 Wulfric Square, Bretton, Peterborough, PE3 8RF. 1992, p 144 in "Poets Pilgrimage."

Cover of Book

After receiving a copy of this engaging poem from Mrs. E. C. W. Hummerstone, I located the paperback anthology on the Internet with no difficulty. The poem celebrates blue flowers with four six-line verses, ending with this one.

But if from all this lavish dower
Earth gave me only one blue flower,
Fain would I that she then might yield
Blue gentians from their alpine field.
This merit they alone can claim:
They burn the air with dark blue flame.
A faithful Savery correspondent, Agneta Thomson, regards this as Savery's best poem, and we are agreed in admiring that final line. The publisher assembled regional anthologies by soliciting original poems from 'closet poets,' offering cash prizes, and selling the anthologies back to their authors.
After receiving the poetry collection, Savery wrote this in her work diary.
Alas, alas, our thoughts were all that could be desired, but our execution was otherwise! Sadly, I own that we had no claim to be poets.
Savery did not write Blue Flowers in 1992. There is a handwritten version in the book of "Verses" she kept by her bed, and the date there is April 29, 1931.

The Christmas King. In Constance Savery Reads from Her Poems, recorded Nov. 13, 1994, at Resthaven, Pitchcombe, Stroud.

The entire poem has not been published; however, a short story in THE SUNDAY AT HOME, White Shines the Star, takes its title from this poem, the last two verses of which are quoted as a "Sunday-school carol."
The poem consists of rhymed couplets in iambic tetrameter. The last two are:
White shines the star on yonder hill.
May Christ's white peace my spirit fill.
He needs no jeweled offering.
By love man serves the Christmas King.
Two years later, completing a final draft of The Quicksilver Chronicle, Savery used the poem, slightly altered, as a 'Christmas hymn':
Cold blows the wind on Bethlehem's hill.
My troubled soul is anxious still.
No gold have I, no gifts to bring.
How shall I serve the Christmas King?
Cold blows the wind on Bethlehem's hill,
May Christ's white peace my spirit fill.
He needs no jewelled offering.
By love one serves the Christmas King.
Incidentally, Cold Blows the Wind on Bethlehem's Hill, words and music by Arthur Colborn, was a hymn included in Savery's Service of Song, The Christmas Flower Shop in 1932. After the first line, the hymns go their separate ways.

Crabbe on the Aldeburgh Festival. In THE SPECTATOR(?). 1974.

Appended to this poem is Savery's parenthetical observation:
On Oct. 19th I heard that these verses had earned a prize of £3 in a literary competition in THE SPECTATOR.
I presume, but have not confirmed, that THE SPECTATOR published the poem, which Savery copied out into her bedside book of verses.
The poet George Crabbe was born in Aldeburgh and wrote a poem, The Borough, a section of which was the inspiration for Benjamin Britten's opera Peter Grimes. In Savery's lines, Crabbe contrasts Aldeburgh as he knew it with the festival town of 1974 and alludes to Britten's opera: "My humdrum verses are to music set." Worth £3, I'd say.

Cradles for Babies. London: Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press. 1933, pp 127-128 in One Leaf on the Track, "The Big Book for Guides," printed by Richard Clay and Sons, Limited, Bungay, Suffolk. Also in Constance Savery Reads from Her Poems, recorded Nov. 13, 1994, at Resthaven, Pitchcombe, Stroud.

Cradles for Babies has three couplets in iambic tetrameter, followed by a final couplet that is looser and longer. Savery contrasts the cradles of babies born to King, Duke, and Knight. The Duke's cradle is typical:
The Duke's young son, to have and hold,
Has a cradle carven of yellow gold.
While, in the last verse,
But the young Lord Christ from Heaven's towers
Hath a wooden manger filled with flowers.
After reciting the poem, the 97-year-old Savery comments: "All I can say is those cradles must have been rather uncomfortable. The only one at all comfortable was the last."
As the poem does not fit in any obvious way into the story in which it appears, I wonder if Savery got to the point of insertion and said to herself: "What have I got that would do?"

(Gij zijt) de Bron. Naarden: A. J. G. Strengholt's Boeken, Hofstede Oud--Bussem--Flevolaan--Naarden. 1981, pp 53-54. In Emma by Charlotte Bronte en een onbekende.

This is the Dutch translation of (Thou Art) the Fountain, below. With such short lines a literal translation could not hope to be successful, but the form, rhyme, and meter have been preserved. For Dutch readers, here is the last line to compare with the original:
Gij zijt de Bron, Dreivuldigheid,
Wij zijn U dankbaar toegewijd.

Golden the dawning... S.R.S., ADVANCE, in Invicta, p 1

The work diaries mention a poem written for "Doreen's Girl Guides. I infer this is the one.
Golden the dawning,
Silver the sky;
At our first waking
Saviour be nigh.

  Come to this camp of ours,
  O Saviour dear,
  All shall be well with us
  If thou art near.

And at high noontide,
Dwell with us still;
With Thy white radiance
Our spirits fill.


Rose red of evening
Darkens to night:
We may sleep fearless,
Thou art our light.


Hushaby Land. New York : London : Toronto: Longmans, Green and Co., 11 Fifth Avenue, New York 3, NY. 1948, p 49 in Dark House on the Moss. Printed by Vail-Ballou Press, Binghamton, NY. Dark House on the Moss was translated into German. Cf. Traumseelenland, below. Also in Constance Savery Reads from Her Poems, recorded Nov. 13, 1994, at Resthaven, Pitchcombe, Stroud.

Like Down by the Sleepy Sea, this is a lullaby written "for Bridget" or "for Elizabeth" depending upon the manuscript. In successive verses, the song celebrates meadows and harebells, wind and bees, lambkins and cloudlets, the river and the sea. Here is a typical onomatopoeic verse:
O hear the wind stirring,
wind stirring, wind stirring.
O hear the wind stirring the Hushaby trees.

O hark the soft humming,
soft humming, soft humming.
O hark the soft hum of the hushaby bees.
Elizabeth, Mrs. E.C.W. Hummerstone, Savery's goddaughter and literary heir, informed me that she had retained
...a manuscript book of little verses, written especially for me when a baby. The pages of the book are alternately music manuscript; I think Aunt Winifred wanted my mother to write tunes for her words.
This music was never written. I do not know if Savery had tunes in mind for these lullabies. The poem to which Mrs. Hummerstone refers may be Twinkle, Inkle, Inkle,.

Mike and Dicky by C. (S.C.). Oxford: THE FRITILLARY, No. 79, Joint Organ of the Women's Colleges. Mar. 1920, p 215.

THE FRITILLARY was the "house organ" for the women's colleges at Oxford. Even the Bodleian and the other great libraries of England do not have this journal, and I am grateful to Mrs. E. C. Hummerstone, Savery's literary heir, for showing me hers and allowing me to photograph Dicky. The signature was C. (S.C.) for Constance (Somerville College).
This is an unambitious, charming poem. Here are the beginning and ending lines:
Dicky, a rag doll Dicky was a rag doll, as cuddly as could be,
Someone gave me one and six, and Mike cost one and three.

Mike was difficult to wash, because his colour ran,
Dicky wouldn't dry for weeks, for he was stuffed with bran.

Closely pent within a press poor Mike and Dicky lie,
Dusty little shadows of a happy age gone by.

Wish that I could take them out, and give them both their tea!
Dicky was a rag doll, and Mike cost one and three. . . .

O Cold Blew the Storm Wind. Peterborough: Arrival Press, 1-2 Wainman Road, Woodston, Peterborough, PE2 7BU. 1993, p 52. In "Follow the Star," ed. Trudi Purdy [Ramm].

Cover of Book
The proof sheet was found among Savery's effects. The poem, dated "Summer 1932," was also transcribed into a composition book where Savery keep her verse. It was the last appearance of an original work by Savery during her lifetime. The letter of acceptance to Savery confirms that she retains the copyright after publication and need not buy a copy of the anthology to ensure its inclusion. The editor's name is given as Trudi Ramm on the cover, but Trudi Purdy on the title page.
When Savery recorded her verse in 1994, she sent a few notes about The Pleasaunce of Cockleshells and The Fool Adoring to Agneta Thomson. Then she wrote:
I hope you can read all this. I can hardly read it myself. If I can find it, I will enclose the proof copy of O cold blew the storm wind. It was published in an anthology called "Follow the Star".
It is a Christmas poem in six verses, of which this is a sample.
And all the birds wakened
With wing and with song
To welcome the angels,
That heavenly throng.
Three obvious misprints aside, the printed poem was improved here and there from the written version. The verse above, for example, looks like this in the verse book:
And all the birds wakened
With wing and song
To follow the angels,
The heavenly throng.
According to the work diaries, in 1993 the Arrival Press published The Bird and the Flowers in an anthology of Christmas verse entitled "Follow the Star." The Bird and the Flowers is in Savery's book of verses, but it is not in "Follow the Star."

Onward! Belfast: FORWARD! Sandes Solders and Airmen's Centres, Belfast, NI. Apr. 1942., p 56. Reprinted, Nov. 1946, in YOUNG PEOPLE'S WEEKLY, XCVIII(11)? American Sunday-School Union, 1816 Chestnut St., Philadelphia. Recorded as Beyond (or On) in Constance Savery Reads from Her Poems, Nov. 13, 1994, at Resthaven, Pitchcombe, Stroud.

The most unsettled thing about this poem is the title. In FORWARD! it is printed as Onward! The tape cassette has Beyond on the label, but Savery titles it On before reading it. The work diaries say it was published as Onward in the YOUNG PEOPLE'S PAPER. A letter from the publisher, David C. Cook, Elgin, Illinois, gives the paper title as YOUNG PEOPLE'S WEEKLY. I think the latter is correct, and the diary entry is mistaken.
Onward! consists of four unrhymed tercets in which the first word is "Beyond" and the middle line is "We travel, we travel, we journey beyond it / them," mentioning in succession the ocean, the forests, the plainlands, and the 'dark purple mountains.' The poem ends...
We know not and fear not; 'tis God who conceals it.
His bidding has sent us on this our long journeying
From ocean to forest, from plainland to mountain
Until He reveal why He sent us a-voyaging.
In the transcript Savery has changed "who conceals it" to "who ordains us." Otherwise, the lines are the same. Written for young soldiers in wartime, it speaks to the rest of us as well.

Red and Green. 1928. In "Joy Book" in a story.

All that I know about this poem is the information from the work diaries that is listed above. It is not in any "Joy Book" between 1928 and 1933.

Silver Starlight / Saint Peter. London: Lutterworth Press, 1959, pp 9-10, in The Sea Urchins. Also in Constance Savery Reads from Her Poems, recorded Nov. 13, 1994, at Resthaven, Pitchcombe, Stroud.

In The Sea Urchins, the poem is untitled and described as a hymn, sung to the tune Cranham, which I associate with a Christmas Carol, In the Bleak Midwinter. When Savery introduces the poem in her reading, she calls it Silver Starlight, a phrase from the verse quoted below, while the tape cassette has the more descriptive Saint Peter. Textual differences between the printed version and the reading are inconsequential.
The poem tells of Peter's release from prison by an angel in the Twelfth Chapter of Acts. Here is an excerpt:
Hushed and dim the prison,
Lamps are burning low;
Not a soldier waking,
God had willed it so.
Soundly sleep the sentries,
Open flies the door,
And the silver starlight
Gilds the prison floor.
In The Sea Urchins, the children "enjoyed learning new hymns, especially when the hymns were story-hymns..." They might have liked it better with more rousing music and an easier melody.

Song for Mothering Sunday. London: Lutterworth Press, 1965, p 95, in Three Houses in Beverley Road. Also in Constance Savery Reads from Her Poems, recorded Nov. 13, 1994, at Resthaven, Pitchcombe, Stroud.

When the book was translated into German, the poem was omitted. It is untitled in the Lutterworth book, and it is not given a title during the reading. Here is the entire transcript. Savery is speaking.
Songs written for mothering Sunday...

On the green hills of Galilee
Wandered the Holy Child
Where flames the red anemone
And cyclamen grows wild.

Such store of flowers were there
To carry home--and yet,
He gathered naught so fair
As the dark violet.
Unfortunately, I can't read my own writing now, and some of these mothering song.... Sunday songs have just disappeared into nothing. So I shall have to leave them...

(Thou Art) the Fountain. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., Weibeck Street, London W1M 8lX. 1980, p 47. Printed by Biddles Ltd., Guildford, Surrey, in Emma by Charlotte Bronte and Another Lady. Emma, q.v., has been reprinted and translated into Dutch and Spanish. Also in Constance Savery Reads from Her Poems, recorded Nov. 13, 1994, at Resthaven, Pitchcombe, Stroud.

The poem was written on Nov. 6, 1976 as Thou Art the Fountain. In Emma the poem is untitled. The tape cassette for the reading carries the label Thou Art the Fountain, but Savery announces The Fountain before reading it. The poem is short with a rhymed couplet beginning "Thou art the Fountain" addressed in turn to each member of the Trinity. The meter in the fourth verse is typical:
Thou art the Fountain, One in Three,
We thank, we praise, we worship Thee.
The couplets in Emma follow the traditional order of 'mighty King,' 'royal Son', and 'holy Dove,' but the order for the reading was 'King,' 'Dove,' and 'Son.'
Translators frequently substitute poems in their own language rather than translate from the English; however, this poem is translated in the Dutch edition: cf. (Gij zijt) de Bron, above, also untitled.

Translation of French Verse by Dolores. London: THE JOURNAL OF EDUCATION AND SCHOOL WORLD, 57(No. 676), Mr. William Rice, Three Ludgate Broadway, London, E.C.4. Nov. 2, 1925, p 772. Printed by the Campsfield Press, St. Albans.

Savery's short annotation in the work diaries, "JOURNAL OF EDUCATION, 1925," led me on a merry chase, but I found the verses at last in an 868-page tome at the British Library after realizing the translation was submitted for a prize competition. Although Savery did not win, the editor praised her for "harkening back" with her lines and giving them a "medieval flavor."
Here are the original quatrains by Pierre Forget, who, the editor notes, died in 1638:
C'est une espèce de merveille,
Dont il est cent mille temoins,
Que qui plus hardiment conseille
Le plus souvent en fait le moins.
. . .
Heureux qui peut vivre seulet
Sans affecter le nom de maitre,
Et qui se passe de valet,
Afin de se passer de l'etre!
. . .
Es-tu mal, il ne faut rien dire,
Quand te serais encore pis;
Souffre le jong, ou te retire,
Et fais les lois, ou les subis.
And here is Savery's first verse:
Whose counsel is most wise,
His own words doth despise,
And fails to make his own
The wisdom he hath sown.
Odd! that this should be,
Yet 'tis verity.

Traumseelenland. Nuernberg: Sebaldus-Verlag. 1950, p 69. In Das düstere Haus am Moor.

When Frieda Wilsmann translated Dark House on the Moss, she also translated Hushaby Land. Rather than attempt to fit German words into the English poem, she elected to write her own poem, paraphrasing the original. I think she did a good job.

The Two Flowers. Belfast: FORWARD! Sandes Solders and Airmen's Centres, Belfast, NI. Apr. 1942. Reprinted, 1949, London: Victory Press, Clapham, London, S.W.4, in Up a Winding Stair, p 84. Also in Constance Savery Reads from Her Poems, recorded Nov. 13, 1994, at Resthaven, Pitchcombe, Stroud.

Jesus comes to the narrator of the poem bearing two flowers, one "white for holiness" and the other "red for sharp distress." Speaking no word of condemnation,
Of His dear charity,
He gave those flowers to me.
The two printed versions of the poem are the same, except that the poem in Up a Winding Stair has 'great' rather than 'dear' in the line above. A number of small differences in the spoken version are likely due to Savery's difficulty in reading the manuscript.
There is a connection between the two printed versions. FORWARD! is published for members of the British armed forces. Although Up a Winding Stair is a book for children, the protagonist is an airman who was seriously wounded and disfigured in combat.

When I Went Sailing through the Coral Sea. Manuscript. 1950. In The Memoirs of Jack Chelwood. Also in Constance Savery Reads from Her Poems, recorded Nov. 13, 1994, at Resthaven, Pitchcombe, Stroud.

The Memoirs of Jack Chelwood were begun in 1944, and the poem is in the first chapter; however, the poem may have been added to the novel much later. In introducing the lines during her reading, Savery says, "This is one of the songs I wrote for Bridget, Elizabeth Hummerstone's elder sister." The other two songs are Down by the Sleepy Sea and Hushaby Land, above. There are a few unimportant differences between the poem in the manuscript and the poem as read; however, they are sufficient to suggest that Savery was reading from 'a song for Bridget' rather than from Jack Chelwood.
The poem has four quatrains, each beginning with the title line. The syllable count is 5-5-8-6, and the fourth line rhymes with the second. The meter is regular, so Savery may have had a tune in mind. If you care to guess the tune, try it with the third verse:
When I went sailing
Through the Coral Sea,
I spied pink ferns and yellow lace
Of coral, carved for me.
We don't have Savery's opinion of her poem, but we have Jack Chelwood's:
The doggerel took my fancy so much that I scribbled it in my pocket book. It left me with a kindly feeling for the young father--young surely, for the lines had the ring of youth--who had thus amused his child's playhours.
Besides showing affection, the poem is pertinent to the story, both in establishing the child's parentage and in its allusion to the tropical sea. It isn't likely, however, that Savery wrote it while she was young.

Who Fashioned the Manger? Belfast: FORWARD! Sandes Solders and Airmen's Centres, Belfast, NI. Dec. 1942, p 185.

Ask a child in our modern society what the purpose of a manger is, and he or she will respond: "It's a place to put a baby." Adults who don't deal with animals are apt to say the same; however, the carpenter who built The Manger had no such thing in mind. Yet, writes Savery,
Could any man make it
And never know
It should soon clasp the Glory
Of Heaven laid low?
I have heard worse sermons that took a lot longer. Savery concludes,
Our hands in their blindness
May serve Christ the King.

This web site © 2010-2021 by Eric Schonblom. Updated December 30, 2021. The unpublished works of Constance Savery are reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner, J. D. Hummerstone.