Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Jane Austen : The Paul Jennings Tribute Poem

I remember well the pleasure that the gently humorous writings and broadcasts of Paul Jennings used to give me. He was an English author who lived mainly in the county of Suffolk. Paul died in 1989.

Did you know that Paul Jennings wrote in 1957 a delightful poem called 'Jane in Vain', as a tribute to our favourite author? Here it is.

                  Jane in Vain 

I often get lost in the works of Jane Austen 
For Jane is my favourite writer; 
Suave and satirical, Jane is a miracle, 
Who subtler than Jane – and who lighter? 

With elegant diction unequalled in fiction 
Her characters meet and commingle 
Unlike, say, the martyrs or Camus or Sartre, 
So anguished, so lonely – so single. 

Though nil is the ration of bedroom and passion, 
When Crawford runs off with Maria 
Their sex-life, off-stage in that elegant age, 
May still be assumed to have fire. 

Such art, with such breeding, makes beautiful reading – 
But let me confess my dilemma; 
I am only safe when it’s the Bingleys and Bennets, 
I mix up 'Persuasion' with 'Emma'. 

I’ve read all thrice, I recall Fanny Price 
Beneath Old Sir Thingummy’s aegis – 
Was it this Cinderella, or some Isabella 
Who fell off a cliff at Lyme Regis? 

I can’t recall rightly if Mr. John Knightley 
Resided at Donwell or Randalls. 
My memory’s flabby: is 'Northanger Abbey' 
The one with the Willoughby scandals? 

I am quite in the dark: is it 'Mansfield Park' 
That begins with the Dashwoods all greedy 
And planning what cash would be left to John Dashwood 
If kept from some relative needy? 

No, they lived at Norland – with Catherine Morland 
Or Rushmore, or Bertram, or Elton, 
Or perhaps Marianne, or Miss Elliot (Anne?) 
In scenes that all Janeites have dwelt on…. 

Mistress of clarity, what a disparity 
Between my response and your art! 
But Jane, don’t complain. I shall read you again 
And again, till I’ve got you by heart.