poetry

Spring is on the Way!

I was trying to find something to cheer us for the weekend and I found this quote.

Feburary patience strong

Don't you love that? 

We've started into Lent, as I've been saying all week, and although it's a time for reflection, it's also a time of 'anticipation' of Easter.

I love the optimism and simplicity of this thought. And if you're a bit fed up of February, take heart. Spring is on the way!

I have some daffodils in my garden already, and I've seen snowdrops and even some primroses in the hedgerows! I do live in the farthest south outreaches of the British Isles, in Jersey in the Channel Islands, where we do have milder winters than other places, so we are already on course for spring, despite the bitter cold and even snow of recent weeks!

But when I saw the quote it also got me thinking about the author - Patience Strong.

It's a name I've known well pretty much all my life. I remember my mum having several Patience Strong poetry books when I was young. It was quite spiritual poetry, the sort that was great for  church, or inspiring women's groups. Patience's poetry is traditional in that it rhymes and it's simple, often short verse, and yes, sometimes sentimental, with themes of nature, faith and strength.

So I did a bit of digging to find out more about the woman behind the verse.

The poet was actually born Winifred Emma May in June 1907 in England. Her poems, prose and thoughts have been collected in numerous anthologies, and they are often brought together to create a collection of 'daily'' inspirational thoughts. Some under the title of 'Friendship Book'.

What I didn't know was that Winnifred also wrote books, dealing with Christianity and practical psychology, and that she was an accomplished musician and lyricist. I read that in 1930, she even wrote a song for the 4th birthday of Princess Elizabeth - now Queen Elizabeth II.

She was much more than the seemingly sweet sentimental poetry I first knew her for.

Patience's popular poems were first featured in The Daily Mirror  newspaper in England in the 1930s and throughout the Second World War her daily poems appeared in a section called 'The Quiet Corner'. They brought comfort and inspiration to a generation of people living through terrible conflict.

But why 'Patience Strong'? Well apparently  the name  came from a book by an American poet and writer called Adeline Dutton Train Whitney. She published more than 20 books for girls in her lifetime, in the mid to late 19th century. ADT Whitney's books expressed a traditional view of women's roles and were popular throughout her life. One of them, published in 1868 was entitled 'Patience Strong's Outings'.

I wonder if that book made a deep impact on Winnifred? Maybe it was a book that had inspired her as a young girl? Who knows?

Whatever the reason for her choosing her pen name, I've always been a bit intrigued by it and I think it was a clever choice. It mixes two important emotions - Patience and Strength. To be truly patient with the world and with life, and with relationships takes really strength. And the name has certainly stood the test of time, because Patience aka Winnifred's poetry and words are still around, and enjoyed by millions of people every year.

Earlier I was chatting about spring flowers, so as we wait for Spring to appear  - here's one of her poems which is just in the moment ... 

Bulbs
by Patience Strong


I've put my bulbs in coloured bowls and hidden them away -
Inside my cupboard, where they cannot see the light of day -
I've put them in the soft black mould as cosy as can be -
And in the quiet darkness they will work their mystery . . .

And when all things lie lifeless locked in winter's frozen sleep -
Inside my cupboard one sweet day a pale green tip will peep.
I'll bring them out into the light and set them in my room -
And silently and secretly they'll grow and bud and bloom -
The grey old house will waken from its drowsy slumbering,
To find the rooms ablaze with flowers, as if it were the Spring! . . .

With daffodils and hyacinths, narcissi, tulips too -
A flaring mass of loveliness in gold and pink and blue -
And I shall smile, remembering my small part in the show -
For though we plant and tend the bulbs -
it's God that makes them grow.


(found on Bulbs, Patience Strong Poems (stresslesscountry.com)


If this be loving ... then I love

On this Valentine's Day I share with you something very special.

A few years back I wrote a book based on the lives and letters of the couple who founded The Salvation Army, the global church and charity movement.

William Booth met Catherine Mumford in 1851 and they married four years later, in July 1855. Their relationship was developed through letter writing, and that correspondence continued throughout their marriage.

Those letters are held in the British Library in London, and it was sheer pleasure to spend hours pouring over those epistles, deciphering the handwriting. Through the correspondence I got to know these individuals on quite a personal level and I discovered that, although they were obviously very religious and spiritual, they were also complex characters, flawed individuals, and ... I found to my surprise ... very much in love.

That personal even romantic love kept Catherine and William close, and that and their love for God and humanity and their mutual passion for sharing the Christian gospel,  helped them to stay strong often during very difficult times.

I love that in 1872, 17 years into their marriage, William - who was also quite an accomplished poet - was inspired to write this to his wife, the mother of his eight children, and his partner in life, faith and Christian mission.


2016-02-14 15.03.48

By the way, if you fancy reading my book based on the Booth Letters, I will be honoured.

It's called 'William and Catherine - the love story of the founders of The Salvation Army told through their letters' (Lion Hudson 2013)

You can also find it and some of my other books on Amazon and other sites.

You can also check out my Author Central page on Amazon 

If you go to the top of this page and click on 'Cathy Home Page' you will also find my main website and occasional blog. And there's more info on 'Cathy's books'.

Thanks and Happy Valentine's Day

 

 


My Tribute

There are times when a song or a piece of music takes you by surprise, or  unexpectedly reminds you of something in your past or takes you back to a moment in time.

That happened to me last weekend. 

On Sunday at lunchtime in the UK the BBC broadcasts its long running and very popular television programme called Songs of Praise, a religious show which features Christian hymns sung in churches of different denominations across the country, and interesting interviews and features about the life of faith of the nation.

Even during the coronavirus pandemic, when they haven't been able to go out and record big congregations singing at the top of their voices, Songs of Praise has kept alive and vibrant. They have recorded soloists, and small groups and choirs singing at safe distance,  and new interviews are interwoven with some of the highlights of congregational singing recorded in recent years, before churches were all locked up to keep us safe.

I've been involved with Songs of Praise for several reasons down the years. I've sung in a few big congregations. As a PR working for different churches and faith charities, I've helped provide guests for the programme. And many years ago, I was actually a guest myself when the programme came to Jersey and I was interviewed for the show. 

In addition to the church based programmes, every year Songs of Praise also hosts 'specials' like 'The Big Sing' and competitions like 'Gospel Choir of the Year' and 'Young Chorister of the Year' which enable the whole nation to enjoy some amazing singers and performances.

This year, for the first time, Songs of Praise is hosting a new contest - 'Gospel Singer of the Year' - and last Sunday (Jan 31) they held the semi-finals. The top three will be in the final today.

But that's not really why I'm writing this.

I'm inspired to share a song with you this Sunday. It was sung last weekend by one of the semi-finalists in the Gospel Singer of the Year programme. And it brought back a particular time in my life and a poignant memory.

In May 1985 my darling Dad died. It was way before his time. He was only 63.

He and mum were living in the UK at the time, ministering in a Salvation Army corps (church) in Kent, and when Dad passed away - or as we say in The Salvation Army ... when he was 'Promoted to Glory' - we held three memorial services. One in the UK church that he was leading at the time of his passing, and then ten days later, the main funeral and an evening celebration service at home here in Jersey, in his 'home' church.

In the celebration service I sang a song for my Dad. How I managed it I'll never know, and I am aware that I missed some of the top notes because of my tears, but I did it for him.

The song meant a lot to me but I have to admit that I haven't listened to it much in the intervening 35 plus years and I certainly haven't sung it in public again. In fact, I don't really sing solos much anymore.

But it was THAT song I heard on the Songs of Praise Gospel Singer of the Year. It was sung beautifully and I was pleased that the performer is in the final. It brought a tear to my eye and caused a lump in my throat, but it's been going through my mind all this week.

So - just for you - I share it with you this Sunday.

The title of the song is 'My Tribute - To God be the Glory' and it was written by the amazing singer/songwriter Andraé Crouch, who also sadly is no longer with us. He mixed his own words to the eternal poetry of hymnwriter Fanny Crosby to create this beautiful song.

'My Tribute' has been sung by many artists down the years, including one of my favourite singers - Sandi Patty. But in the 1980s I also listened a lot to a Christian singer called 'Evie' ... and it's her version of this amazing song that I was inspired by.

It took me a while to find it online, and in the process I discovered that Evie is still performing, including this song, and looking and sounding amazing ... but this is the original recording I fell in love with.

Enjoy and be blessed!

 

 

 


Giving thanks on Burns Night

‘Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it, But we hae meat and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be Thanket!’

Do you know what that is? 

It's The Selkirk Grace, a prayer which can be used before a meal, and it's attributed to the Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns.

Born on this day – January 25 – in the year 1759, 'Rabbie Burns' is also known as ‘The Bard of Ayrshire’ and the ‘Ploughman Poet’. He came from humble farming stock and despite a life of struggles, grew a reputation which today sees him recognised as the national poet of his homeland - Scotland.

He wrote not just about the world around him but also commentated on the politics of the day, and after his death in July 1796 his work is said to have inspired the founders of the Romantic movement, liberalism and socialism.

Every January 25 around the world, especially where there is the glimmer of a Scottish population, is recognised as 'Burns Night' and  ‘Burns Night Suppers’ are held to commemorate and celebrate this man who’s legacy has influenced so many generations.

I've read a few versions of how the Burns Night dinner came about. It's thought it was around 1801 when some of his friends and acquaintance met to remember Robert. After some confusion over when the poet was born, by 1803 they had settled on suppers being held on or around January 25th, his birthdate. The event has been a regular occurrence ever since and it now follows a pretty strict routine.

The supper always begins with the guests being 'piped in' ... that is greeted by the sound of the bagpipes.

The host welcomes the guests and the meal is blessed with The Selkirk Grace.

First course is soup, usually a Scottish soup or broth or similar.

Haggis (2)And then comes - The Haggis.

Once again the bagpipes are full throttle as the cook enters the room bearing a large platter on which sits what is a sort of savoury pudding, containing sheep's heart, lungs and liver, minced up with onion, suet, oatmeal, spices and condiments. It's traditionally wrapped in an animal's stomach and - I've not tasted it yet - apparently it's a bit nutty.

Everyone in the room stands for the 'Piping in (of ) the Haggis' and the piper leads the dish all the way to the table. 

And then, before digging in, there's a recital of Robert Burns' poem 'Address to a Haggis'. This is the centrepiece and highlight of the supper and pays tribute not just to Burns and his poetry, but to Scottish tradition and history.

At the line  'His knife see rustic Labour dicht,' the speaker normally draws and sharpens a knife. At the line 'An' cut you up wi' ready slicht', he plunges it into the haggis and cuts it open from end to end.

As the poems ends, a whisky toast is proposed to the haggis, and the guests sit down to eat. The haggis is traditionally served with mashed 'tatties' (potatoes) and mashed 'neeps' (swede).
 
The meal usually includes dessert and  a cheese course  - all usually traditional Scottish recipes - and then coffee is followed by 'the water of life' - Scotch whisky. There are lots of toasts and speeches and the main speaker usually talks about Burns and his life or poetry. It could include a poem or a song ... and then there's a toast to the 'Immortal Memory of Robert Burns'.
 
Tradition then insists there's an 'Address to the Lassies' - originally a thanks to the women who had prepared the meal but now usually a comical thought about a man's view of women. It's not usually offensive, because what comes next is the 'Reply to the Laddies' ... a woman replies with her view on men.
 
Everyone toasts with whisky at any opportunity!
 
Loads of singing and poetry may follow. Burns wrote poems and songs and so there's lots to chose from including poems like  To a MouseTo a Louse, and Tam o' Shanter.
 
I'm reliably informed that it's generally a long night which ends with a guest giving a vote of thanks and then, to end the evening,  everyone is invited to stand, join hands, and sing perhaps Robert Burns's most famous and popular lyric ... Auld Lang Syne.
 
Set to a traditional Scottish folk tune and also sung across the world on 'Scottish Hogmanay' -  the final night of the old year -  ‘Auld Land Syne’ starts by posing a rhetorical question.
 
‘Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon;’ is one version of the opening line. The other is ‘‘Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind;’
 
Is it right that old times be forgotten?
 
It’s an interesting question and is interpreted by some as a reminder to us all not to forget long-standing relationships and friendships, especially those that have been important to us.
 
As we live our lives, move from one experience to another, one relationship to another, develop in our careers and move on from our past, it’s easy to forget the people who, perhaps, have sacrificed so that we may have more. It’s easy to forget the relationships which, perhaps, have been the building blocks for our lives today, and for our futures.
 
So, even if we're not piping in the haggis tonight, or reciting poems and singing songs and toasting Rabbie Burns, let's take a moment to give thanks for all the people who have brought us to this moment in our lives and without whose influence we would be nothing.
 
‘Sae let the Lord be Thanket!’

 


A Friday Thought

I have to admit, I'm a bit of a summer person.

I like the sunshine. I feel energised in the warmth of the late spring and summer but in the winter months I sometimes struggle to motivate myself, especially first thing in the morning when it's still dark outside at about the time I have to rise for work.

But on THIS day of the week there is one thing that gets me going ... and that is knowing that tomorrow ... the weekend will be here!

Bit tongue in cheek, but here's a little poem I penned ...

 

FRIDAY MORNING

I woke today

As I usually do

About the time

My clock told me to

 

And though my heart

Was filled with dread

As I thought about

The day ahead

 

There was one thought

That made me smile

That gave me joy

For a little while

 

And what is it?  

Just one more day

Until it will be

SATURDAY!!!

 

Cathy Le Feuvre


More

Following on from yesterday's post about Happiness and Joy, here's something I wrote a little while back which summed up how I was thinking then and what is still in my heart. 

Suffice to say, I'm a bit of a 'work in progress' 

 

MORE

Money, love, recognition, image, security

Clothes, house, car, holidays,

All the ‘Stuff’ which controlled me, which I thought defined me

All the ‘Things’ which I desired yet left me constantly dissatisfied, unfulfilled

Always comparing myself with others, always wanting MORE of what THEY had

MORE of what I thought I deserved

MORE and MORE and MORE...

 

NOW

AT LAST

I finally understand

All the Stuff and Things are insignificant, unimportant

Compared to Jesus

And now the MORE for which I yearn is only

MORE of Him, His Love, His Presence

MORE of Jesus in my life

MORE and MORE and MORE ...

 

Cathy Le Feuvre