An ironically inappropriate poem for a 1914 diary
In a previous post I mentioned that my uncle kept a diary for the year 1914, and that I have it on my desk now. In that post I was particularly interested in his entries for the days in early August when Great Britain declared war on Germany, but I also had a good look at the diary itself, and I have discovered something that is tragically ironic.
My uncle was a student teacher at the beginning of 1914, which is presumably why he bought a ‘Teachers’ Pocket Diary’ published by Charles Letts and Co. It contains quite a lot of information that would be of use to teachers, such as lists of colleges that offer teacher training, addresses of educational publishers, dates of public exams, space in which to write one’s school timetable, and much more besides.
However, I was particularly struck by what appears on the opening page of the diary, opposite the title page. This is a poem entitled ‘My Diary’ by a poet named Elsie Dickinson. I cannot find any references to a poet of this name in any of my printed sources (and I have plenty!), neither does she appear in any Google search. Please note – this is not Emily Dickinson, but Elsie. There is no error here, which does not surprise me because the quality of the poem is way below anything that the sainted Emily would have written!
It is not the quality of the verse that is of interest so much as its sentiment. One has to make allowances for the fact that the diary was published before the year 1914 began, and there is no way of knowing when the poem was written. Neither poet not publisher could have foreseen the tragedy that was about to unfold as Europe plunged into war, but that does not detract from the fact that the poem is about as far off-beam as could be imagined in terms of what it hopes for and what was about to occur.
Here is the final verse:
An untrod path, the year before me lies
I know not what this book of mine shall tell,
Yet sure I feel a kindly Providence
Is over all, and shall make all things well.
(One for LoudMan )
Image Credit » Photograph taken by me (John Welford) August 2014