The Tale of the 6th Earl’s Wife

After Francis Cotes (1726-1770) Portrait of Maria Gunning, Countess of Coventry (1733-1760), Wife of the 6th Earl, after 1751

After Francis Cotes (1726-1770)
Portrait of Maria Gunning, Countess of Coventry (1733-1760), Wife of the 6th Earl, after 1751

The Tale of the 6th Earl’s Wife

Fragile rose silk, dainty,
pirouetting the ballroom floor,
her dance card was full and busy
the instant she walked through the door.

One, named George, paid attention,
thought her beauty beyond compare.
She blushed, her eyes on her pink-ribboned shoes.
He swore that all dances they’d share.

The chandeliers shone and glittered,
brave smiling faces glowed,
young men in scarlet jackets and wigs,
young women’s dreams overflowed.

Croome, the seat of the Coventry’s
basked in the afternoon sun,
as Maria arrived in a carriage,
before the ball had begun.

Her dancing slippers were wrapped
in tissue, held in a frame,
she removed them from her valise.
Maria Gunning was her name.

The chandeliers shone and glittered,
brave smiling faces gleamed,
young men in scarlet jackets and wigs,
young women’s dreams were dreamed.

Her heart skipped and leapt
as she thought of her Earl;
of scarlet and black velvet bows.
He was darkly handsome, she a vain young girl.

When he came her way, she made her play
to become his Countess before long.
Pearls in hair, rose pink shoes on feet,
her celebrity fêted in song.

The chandeliers shone and glittered,
brave smiling faces flushed,
young men in scarlet jackets and wigs,
young women’s dreams were crushed.

At the height of the Georgian era
a lucent, whirlwind romance,
they were together for only 8 years,
that ball was a grand place to dance.

His black buckled shoes on the marbled floor
with the pink, the two made one whole.
‘Tis said it was all in the detail,
and they were soul to sole.

Why together no longer?
The tale is tragic to tell,
a lead-based white face powder
sounded Maria’s death knell.

The chandeliers shone and glittered,
brave smiling faces burned,
young men in scarlet jackets and wigs,
young women’s dreams overturned.

Polly Stretton © 2014

For those who are interested in finding out more about Maria Gunning and her life, here’s a link to the main Croome site: Croome Court, Worcestershire

If you’d like to see more of the Soul to Sole project at Croome, please visit my project blog: pollycroome

Posted on dVerse Poets ‘Meeting the Bar’

William’s Footprint

William’s Footprint is a poem about William Dean, who arrived at Croome in about 1796 and was Head Gardener to the 6th and 7th Earls of Coventry for nearly 40 years looking after the walled kitchen garden and the park. He wrote a book about Croome and indexed every plant and tree. This poem was written as part of the Soul-to-Sole project and is shown on the sole of William’s shoe in the shoe rack in the basement.

William’s Footprint

If soles could talk
what tales they’d tell
of statues – alive! –
hot walls and wishing wells;
of a serpentine river
and a man-made lake,
of Quercus ilex
and poison Mandrake.

If soles could talk
what tales they’d tell,
of the walled kitchen garden
and glass cloche bells,
of boys of seven
who stoke the heated wall,
while the dipping pond
is their longed for call.

If soles could talk
what tales they’d tell,
of the Druid and Sabrina’s
trysts in the dell;
of mischievous Pan
piping high and sweet,
the goat-god spies on them
in the grotto where they meet.

If soles could talk
what tales they’d tell,
of the nymphs at Croome
and wooded islands where they dwell.
Here’s head gardener Will
wielding spade and pruning hook;
he is grounded and ready
to write his book.

Polly Stretton © 2014

Four Terms

An update on my poem about the plinths in Croome Park.

Four Seasons www.1st-art-gallery.com

Acknowledgements to http://www.1st-art-gallery.com

 

Four Terms

Four empty corners once held Roman Terms,
there’s nothing where splendour, once affirmed,
slipped away for mysterious reasons;
cool, eye-catching Elysian Seasons.

Near Temple Greenhouse, a Lancelot place,
Evergreen Shrubbery in a warm embrace
sees criss-crossed walks, hears insect legs thrumming;
pale plinths await lost statues’ homecoming.

Yet cedars of Lebanon fan the park,
while winds whine and winnow, whispering dark,
seeking heads and shoulders vanished from plinths
missed in a moment and mourned ever since.

Olympian gates in fields of flowers
hang on the return of hidden Hours.

Polly Stretton © 2016

Nuns Talking

The final poem of the day following the Young Poets’ poetry slam in July 2015 at The Summer Reading Challenge at Croome. A bit of fun to end our celebrations, with me as ‘nasty nun’ and Matt Windle as ‘nice nun’ – the audience’s role was to imagine us both in wimples 🙂

'Poet with Punch' Matt Windle, and Polly Robinson rehearse 'Nun's Talking'

‘Poet with Punch’ Matt Windle, and Polly Stretton rehearse ‘Nun’s Talking’

Nuns Talking

‘Oh those boys
oh, those boys,
full of nonsense,
full of noise,
can’t they keep their voices down?
Running round and round and round.’

‘Headmistress, please,
do not fret so.
They mean no harm,
they’re young, you know.’

‘Sister Ursula, you see no fault
in any boy doing somersaults
or stealing cake from the table.
They must learn
to kneel, be prayerful.
Giving them an inch is fatal!’

‘Headmistress, they are but boys
they have no home, they have few toys,
we are all to them, and more,
the minute they walk through our door.’

‘Bah! I say, ‘but boys’ indeed,
all they want is a jolly good feed.
They do not want to work at all,
lazy boys who play with balls.
They should work hard at their studies,
not play football with their buddies.
I’m tired of wiping noses, bloodied,
they come in with their boots all muddied…’

‘Sister, Sister, patience please,
there is no harm in bloodied knees,
let them have some fun and joy,
it is not easy, being a boy.’

Polly Stretton © 2015

Alcove Sonnet

Peter’s fourth poem about exhibits in the long gallery at Croome Court.

esperluetterbox

Grace A Williams: It Has Capability Grace A Williams: It Has Capability

For many years I lived a life alone,
Was unattached to many worldly goods.
It’s just like entering the darkest woods
And finding all my feelings turn to stone.
Only slowly did I learn to be myself
And build my natural glory and esteem.
It’s never easy swimming ’gainst the stream;
Much easier to stay unnoticed on the shelf.
There came a time when all was changed, and I
Came boldly from my ledge to spread my wings.
To shock the unobservant passer-by,
I loosed these inner feelings with good cause:
To meet with others, share this gift that brings
My overflowing heart to merge with yours.

© 2015 Peter Young

This is my fourth poem inspired by the pieces in the exhibition in the Long Gallery at Croome Court. This piece is by Grace A Williams, and is called It Has Capability.

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