In February, by Alice Meynell

February hasn’t inspired a great many poems, not being, in general, a very inspiring month, but it did inspire this one – In February, by Alice Meynell.  

Alice Meynell grew up chiefly in Italy, born to bohemian parents, and converted to Roman Catholicism at an early age.  This is one of her earlier poems, part of an intense sonnet-sequence thought to have been inspired by an unrequited – or at least unconsummated – attachment to a Roman Catholic priest (who is presumably the “friend” in the last three lines).  The sense of latent fertility is rather wonderful. 

Frustrated in this respect, she found other outlets for her energies, moving to England, marrying the publisher Wilfred Meynell, editing various journals, having eight children, rescuing and publishing Francis Thompson, being pursued by Coventry Patmore and later in life becoming a prominent Suffragist. She clearly had a lot of energy.  Her later poems were more purely devotional than this, and perhaps less interesting as a result.

In February

    Rich meanings of the prophet-Spring adorn,
    Unseen, this colourless sky of folded showers,
    And folded winds; no blossom in the bowers;
    A poet’s face asleep in this grey morn.
    Now in the midst of the old world forlorn
    A mystic child is set in these still hours.
    I keep this time, even before the flowers,
    Sacred to all the young and the unborn.  
    To all the miles and miles of unsprung wheat,
    And to the Spring waiting beyond the portal,
          And to the future of my own young art,
    And, among all these things, to you, my sweet,
    My friend, to your calm face and the immortal
          Child tarrying all your life-time in your heart.

She also found the time to sit for a portrait by John Singer Sargent, like so:

Alice Meynell


4 thoughts on “In February, by Alice Meynell

  1. Fairly quiet, thank you. I wasn’t quite as active as it looks (if that’s what you mean) – WordPress seems to think that anything written after 11.00 at night (on Saturday, in this case) was written the next day.

    Pleased to see that you seem to be up and about again – and provoking plenty of debate, I see. Do hope you’re feeling better.

  2. Thank you, I am certainly on the mend. Turned out to be a knotty trapezius. Who’d have known? Thank God for chiropractors.

    Just for info, you can change the date and time on your WordPress settings. Go to Settings and then scroll down to Time Zone where you can make the necessary adjustment. Took me ages to work this one out! Also did you know that you can schedule posts backwards as well as forwards? If you miss the witching hour or simply have gaps in your posts, you can date them for any time, past or present. Jolly useful.

  3. That is very clever. I didn’t realise that. I think I decided when I began writing this that I’d impose rules on myself – no drafts and no re-editing anything I’d published – otherwise I knew that I’d end up posting one finely-crafted 2,000 word piece every fortnight, which, of course, no-one would read. I haven’t quite stuck to that, but I do tend to bash posts out when I’ve got the time and publish them straightaway. Would be more sensible, though, to spread them out a bit.

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