Such A Sad Little Book!On a wet afternoon in October, I stood in front of a tall bookcase in the music shop in Wigtown.
John was engrossed in the piles of music on the floor and I was wondering what to read in the meantime!
The titles looked rather daunting. Did I really want to know the inner most secrets of writing fugues?
Somehow that just didn’t appeal to me. Then I saw it, a shabby little book squeezed in
between much grander volumes. "Songs of Life and Nature" it said on the cover but when
I opened it I discovered that it wasn’t a book of songs at all. It was a book of poems by
someone called Herbert J. Hawthorn. I had never heard of him, but I was intrigued and looked further.
That was when I discovered that the book had never been read. You see it was published at
a time when to keep cost down, several pages were printed on one sheet of paper and the book
then bound together. That meant that some pages were joined together at the top and others at
the side. Anyone wishing to read the book would have to spend some time carefully splitting
and separating the pages. But no one had ever bothered to this with the sad little book.
I went over to the window and by turning the book this way and that was able to
read two of the poems and the poet’s introduction:
"I make no apology for bringing before the public this little book, yet I do so with
a certain amount of trepidation. I look upon these poems, if such I dare to call them, as
my children, the children of my heart, and I naturally wish that they should live as long
as possible even though their allotted span is destined to be short. I am fully conscious
of their many defects, but no child is wholly bad, so I trust these children of mine may have
some little of good in them. The poems have been penned at odd times over a long period of
years, and whatever else may be said about them, they truly reflect the feelings of their author.
If only a stanza here or a line there appeals to the heart of one, and brightens the life or
eases the load of care of another, that is all I desire.
Herbert J. Hawthorn
Kettering, August 1926."
The first poem I managed to read was "To My Little Friend" – and instantly I was back in the
garden of my grandmother’s neighbour, Mr. Gatland! The poem described so perfectly the
rapport between an elderly gentleman and a three-year-old girl.
(See "The Blackbird and the Silver Brooch!")
Written in pencil on the fly leaf was:
"Unopened - £2.50p"
And so I bought the little book – and spent an hour carefully splitting the pages. There are
67 pages in all and I found the poems to be delightful. I thought that others might enjoy them
too and that is why I have made this little section on our web site.
I still have no idea as to who Herbert Hawthorn was – but somehow I feel sure that I would
have liked someone who shows such sensitivity in his poems. And it is pleasant to think that
an audience he could never have dreamt of in his lifetime is now enjoying his poems – his "children".
Copyright (c) Elizabeth May Tolson, 6th November 2001
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