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Sunday, 1 May 2011

'Poems' by Betty L.Robertson - gentle simplicity and integrity

Some years ago from a book-shop in Devon, I acquired a second-hand book of poems by Betty L.Robertson, published in the early 1930s by Whitby, Light, and Lane Ltd, Printers, of Bridgwater.
Every so often, when in contemplative mood, I browse through this little book, never failing to be moved by these poems.  This little known and clearly sensitive lady, who so obviously loved God’s natural world, also suffered deep personal sorrow from the loss of a loved one, yet never failed to proclaim through her poetry, her ultimate trust and faith in God, the source of all love.

Here is a small selection of her poems:-

From a Hunted Deer         
Did you men know the anguish of my mind,
Could you but hear the thumping in my breast,
Or see the tears of pain which drive one blind,
Or feel the sharp strained pain across the chest.

Did you but know how when so close to death
The aching legs go slower as they run,
And comes a hard, cold stab with every breath,
A scorching dryness of the thirsty tongue.

Ah! Then indeed you’d know what real fear was,
The terror of a deer hunted by hounds,
All wildly mad with hunger, and as us
You’d feel them tear the flesh, with leaps and bounds.

What have we done to meet this shameful end?
That you men revel in our banishment?
What have we done so greatly to offend?
Almighty knows that we are innocent.

Because we’re dumb think you we feel no pain?
We are not cowards, tho’ God knows we are wild.
Think you we do not grieve when we have seen
This sudden ending of a mate, or child?

But you rejoice to see us sweat and bleed,
Dying on the ground He made for living things,
And you are proud of having done this deed,
And what is more, you call it “sport of kings”.
                                                 September 1926


O man where is your soul?
This hedge so beautiful,
Those twigs so brown,
These leaves which held the dew,
Those splendid ferns which grew,
Are all cut down.

Tidy you say? Ah yes
But wild unrulyness
Is nature’s charm.
Those tender buds were such
That fairies would not touch,
Lest they might harm.

Lighter! And what of light?
The willows were so slight,
The moss so green.
Why angels fear to tread
Across that violet bed
Where you have been.

It is your job, you say?
To chop this hedge away?
‘Twas beautiful,
Those gentle joys spring planned,
Die ‘neath your ruthless hand.
Where is your soul?

The Moth

Flickering is the candlelight,
Wavering, for the breeze is slight,
Out of the sleeping summer night
Flies a moth.

Out of the lane where flowers grow,
Darting towards the candle glow,
Fluttering wings, as white as snow
Has the moth.

Little moth, go back to the lane,
See, I’ve opened the window pane,
Fly back to the darkness again
Little moth.
                                   August 1929

Sing On, Sweet Bird

Sing on, sweet bird, the day has nigh
Come to a close, the dark’ning sky
Hangs low, night sounds are heard.
Time is so short, and life so dear
Fades as the daylight, for how near
Is Heaven to earth, sweet bird?

Sing on, sweet bird, nor heed the night,
Thy soul is seeking for some height
Where other souls have gone.
This aching heart which is my own,
Finds comfort in thy powers alone,
Sing on, sweet bird, sing on.

Sing on, sweet bird, and never cease,
The darkness brings a tranquil peace,
One star shines through above.
Across the hill the wind’s soft breath
Whispers to us “there is no death,
And God alone is love”.

And finally – possibly my favourite from this little known and gracious lady;


What should they know of life, these little ones?
Who weep, and then forget why they were sad,
Who crown their lives with golden dreams, ambitions,
And never doubt that they will come to pass.
What should they know of life?  Its sordidness
To children is a thing of nothingness.
The earth to them was made for work and play,
With new found joys in every endless day.
What should they fear from life, these little ones?

What should they know of love, these little ones?
Who worship from the depth of heart and soul
More faithfully than older ones can tell,
A simple toy, battered or torn, or broken.
And from the angels comes the love for mother,
Kept sacredly aloof from any other,
A love, deep rooted in the little heart,
That nought, not even death, could wrench apart.
What should they fear from love, these little ones?

What should they know of death, these little ones?
Death, fearful in its great uncertainty,
A promised peaceful sleep, yet how we tremble
To leave this world of ours, and walk with God.
But children do not doubt, Heaven must lie
Beyond the twinkling stars, the tranquil sky,
For mother said that dark was safe as light,
And Jesus watches thro’ the longest night.
What should they fear from death, these little ones?

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