Thursday, 12 August 2010

The Twelfth of August

Mrs Miniver has driven up to Scotland 
for the start of the shooting season.
She declines to walk the steepest beats above the hill loch
and rests on a grassy knoll with her sister-in-law Susan,

who had planted her back firmly against one of the rowans 
and begun to knit.
'Susan', said Mrs Miniver,'where did that knitting come from? 
I swear you didn't have any on you a minute ago. 
I believe you materialize bits of knitting out of thin air, 
the way conjurors do with lighted cigarettes.'
'No,' said Susan, 'they grow out of my fingertips, 
like a thread out of a spider. 
As a matter of fact my whole inside is made of wool. 
One gets like that, you know, living in the Highlands all year round.'

The Dreamer 
Annie Louisa Swynnerton 1887

Mrs Miniver lay down on her side 
to make the colours of the hills clearer.
Across the foreground of her picture
 was a spray of whin in full bloom, 
upon which two chaffinches were swinging.
Above them a pair of white butterflies were weaving 
quick flirtatious patterns in the air.
 It was idyllic - a Chinese painting on silk; 
an exquisite, peaceful oasis in a day of organized death...
She shut her eyes, 
taking the Chinese picture with her inside the lids.

'Listen,' said Susan presently. 
'I heard a shot.'
Mrs Miniver opened her eyes again for a moment.
Eight white wings lay scattered on the grass under the gorsebush.
The chaffinches were looking as though 
butterflies wouldn't melt in their mouths. 
It was too hot to work out the moral.
She shut her eyes again and went to sleep.

English School 20th century.


  1. Such a delightful excerpt, Lucille! You have such a talent for matching words and pictures so beautifully.

    I've just been inspired to order a copy of the book for myself. Now I'm off to research the artist.

  2. I wondered why the tigers were so quiet today...

  3. I live in the Highlands - I wish my knitting would grow out of thin air!

  4. On bother - because I'm writing a dissertation on knitting and when I flicked through Mrs Miniver I was certain I didn't see a single mention of knitting. So I'm either going to have to go back to the library for Mrs Miniver, or remove the offending paragraph on the absence of knitting in Mrs Miniver. I suppose that will teach me not to look at blogs when I should be working on my dissertation...

  5. Mrs Miniver is one of my favourites. Just thinking about her makes me long for a bunch of bronze coloured chrysanths.