An Answer to Frances Cornford

Do you have any favorite poems about trains and train journeys? I was compiling such a list – the way one does on a rainy Tuesday in June – when I discovered this gem from C. K Chesterton. What a delightful put down of a very annoying verse that’s been stuck in my head since I was about eight.

An Answer to Frances Cornford

Why do you rush through the fields in trains,
Guessing so much and so much.

Why do you flash through the flowery meads,
Fat-head poet that nobody reads;
And why do you know such a frightful lot
About people in gloves and such?

by
So what is it about? Here is the culprit: A much anthologized, offensive and moralizing, much read to children for-their-improvement verse by Frances Cornford. Vanquished at last.

To a Fat Lady Seen From the Train

O why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
Missing so much and so much?
O fat white woman whom nobody loves,
Why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
When the grass is soft as the breast of doves
And shivering sweet to the touch?
O why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
Missing so much and so much?
   by Frances Cornford
And now I’ve found that Mr. Shropshire Lad himself – A.E. Housman – skewered it rather nicely as well.
O why do you walk through the fields in boots,
Missing so much and so much?
O fat white woman whom nobody shoots,
Why do you walk through the fields in boots,
When the grass is soft as the breast of coots
And shivering-sweet to the touch?
by A. E. Housman
Cornford doesn’t make my list of favorite train poems. Do you have any suggestions for that list?
And, because this is June 6th:

Gwyn Briwnant Jones; Special GWR Train Used by Eisenhower, June 1944; Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales.

4 Comments

  1. Peter Gow:

    Emily Dickinson #383

    I like to see it lap the Miles —
    And lick the Valleys up —
    And stop to feed itself at Tanks —
    And then — prodigious step

    Around a Pile of Mountains —
    And supercilious peer
    In Shanties — by the sides of Roads —
    And then a Quarry pare

    To fit it’s sides
    And crawl between
    Complaining all the while
    In horrid – hooting stanza —
    Then chase itself down Hill —

    And neigh like Boanerges —
    Then — prompter than a Star
    Stop — docile and omnipotent
    At it’s own stable door —

    I think literary history decrees we must keep both occurrences of the improper apostrophes in “it’s”–but it’s still a kind of fun poem.

  2. Absolutely! A must for the list. Thanks Peter.

  3. Eileen:

    John Betjeman – he was always writing about trains; Edward Thomas and Adelstrop which is everyone’s favourite; and Philip Larkin Whitsun Weddings.

    • John Betjeman seemed to spend his life hanging about trains and stations. I love this last chunk from the end of one of them:

      The old Great Western Railway shakes
      The old Great Western Railway spins –
      The old Great Western Railway makes
      Me very sorry for my sins.

Post a Comment

*
* (will not be published)

CommentLuv badge

Random Posts

LOAD MORE
UA-68179845-1
%d bloggers like this: