Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A Touching Piece in "The Oldie"

I don't often buy magazine. I used to buy Empire and Total Film magazine, in my twenties and early thirties. I would also buy DVD Monthly which was my favourite of the lot (mostly because a retrospective review is more interesting than a first-take review). I enjoyed reading them, and I'm actually feeling nostalgic about them as I write this. But I eventually stopped because I got tired of their excessive focus on action and superhero films-- not to mention their pandering to celebrity culture.

I had a subscription to First Things magazine for several years. It was always a pleasant occasion when it arrived-- I would sit down to read it with a muffin and a cup of coffee. I had to cancel it for reasons of economy, though.

Sometimes I buy Ireland's Own, which more or reflects my own ideal of Irishness, and which has published some of my own articles. (Indeed, I have another in the pipeline.)

But generally, I don't buy magazines.

However, I do like to read magazines. A magazine has something that a book (generally) lacks: a community of voices, and a taste of the particular historical moment that it appeared. I enjoy reading back issues of periodicals in the library. Currently I am reading through the archive of Comhar, an Irish language periodical which has been published since at least the forties. And recently, I found a few copies of The Oldie on the book exchange outside the library. Which is, after all that preamble, the subject of this blog post.

In the July 2018 issue, I came across a very moving item in its editorial pages. I hope they won't mind me transcribing it, and indeed, it would seem contrary to its spirit if they did. It describes how the novelist Teresa Waugh met a ninety-eight-year-old woman named Patricia O'Brien in a nursing home, and learned that she had been a poet all her life, but only in her late nineties had she managed to finish poems:

Several times, she politely asked Teresa to find a publisher for her work-- and for one poem, "This Time, Next Time" in particular.

"She dictated the poem for me to take home and print in large letters, which I did. When I last saw her, she was very ill, and, I feared, on her deathbed."

"She clasped my hand and asked to promise to go on trying to get the poem published after her death. I had told her that, although I could promise nothing, I would try. She was thrilled."

The article goes on to describe how O'Brien passed away that April, a day after Teresa Waugh last met her. Waugh says of the lady: "She had an intense love of poetry and could recite reams of it by heart to her dying day."

Here is the poem O'Brien most wanted to have published. It's no a masterpiece by any means, but it is quite haunting, and reminiscent of Christina Rossetti (which endears it to me).

This Time, Next Time...

All in a ring, they sang together 
This time, next time, sometime, never. 
Laughing girls who dropped together
This time, next time, sometime, never.

This time, next time, sometime, never, 
Sang the lovebird from the tree, 
"Surely my love will come to me
This time, next time, perhaps never", 
Sang the lovebird from the tree. 

Golden days in gilded weather. 
"My love, my love has come to me 
And we shall dance and sing together, 
Constant and true in all our weather, 
This time, glad time", joyfully 
Sang the lovebird from the tree. 

This time, next time, sometime, never 
My love, my love has gone from me, 
Dropped through a hole in the world has he 
Out of time to eternity,
And never again to come to me, 
And never again to come to me.

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