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Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Born in 1924, Toulson resides in Somerset and has worked as a teacher, editor and poetess.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR SHIRLEY TOULSON, who lives in Somerset, was drawn
into the spell of Celtic Christianity as she worked on her books dealing with
the oldest roads and folklore of Britain and Ireland, and found herself
following the routes taken on their journeys by the saints of the early church.
SUMMARY The poet looks at the photograph of her mother, which was taken when her
mother was 12 years old. The mother had gone for a sea holiday with her cousins
Betty and Dolly and while they were paddling, her uncle took a photograph of
Each of the
cousins was holding the hands of the poet’s mother who was the eldest among
them. All three of them stood smiling through their hair while the photo was
taken. Her mother had a sweet face. All this happened before she was born.
past. Her mother grew up into an adult. They all underwent changes, while the
sea stood still and seemed unaltered despite the passage of time. After about
twenty or thirty years, the poet’s mother would look at the photograph,
laughing nostalgically and remembering the past.
She would comment
on the dress worn by her cousins Betty and Dolly and herself. The sea holiday
belonged to the past of her mother and the poet still remembers how her mother
would laugh looking at the snapshot.
Shirley Toulson’s mother had on her face when she thought of her past (the sea
holiday) and Shirley’s thoughts when she recalls her mother’s laughter, both,
seem to be wry i.e. filled with dry or sad amusement for a time that was
happier but cannot be re-lived.
For the poet,
both these (the photograph and her memories of her mother) bring great sadness
and an acute sense of loss. However, time has been a healer of sorts. Although
the sense of loss that may never go away completely, with time, she has come to
accept this eventuality of life.
She has been
able to come to terms with her mother’s demise. Her mother died about 12 years
ago and now, the poetess has nothing to say about this circumstance. It leaves
her sad and yet at ease. It leaves her in pain, but with acceptance. The
photograph is silent and leaves her silent as well.
The three stanzas depict three different phases. The first stanza refers to the
childhood of the poet’s mother. The second stanza refers to the poet’s
childhood when her mother was an adult. The last stanza refers to the poet’s
adulthood when she is not with her mother.
This poem by Shirley Toulson seems a tribute to her mother. One
day, she finds an old photograph of her mother, pasted on a cardboard sheet. A
photograph she remembered her mother talking about with fondness.
1) The cardboard (photograph) shows the narrator who it was that
day (poetic device: allusion as the cardboard’s
lack of durability hints at the lack of permanence of human life)
2) When two of her mother’s cousins went paddling (on the beach,
with the narrator’s mother)
3) Each of the cousins held one of her mother’s hands.
4) Her mother was the eldest – about twelve years old at this
5) All three of them stood smiling, their hair strewn across
their face (possibly tossed by the beach wind or water) (poetic device: alliteration... stood still to smile)
6) As her mother’s uncle clicked their picture with a camera.
Her mother’s face was sweet
7) And the picture was taken much before the narrator was born.
8) The sea in the picture is still the same today (has changed
9) And in the picture it seems to wash their feet which by
nature, are transient because human life is short-lived as compared to nature.
(Poetic device: Transferred Epithet.
Human life itself is temporary not the feet. When the adjective for one noun
like life is transferred to another noun like feet, it is called transferred
epithet. It is also alliteration due to the repetition of the ‘t’ sound but
writing only alliteration as the poetic device will lead to a loss of marks)
10) Some twenty, thirty years later from when the picture was
11) her mother had looked at the snapshot and laughed. She had
pointed out her cousin Betty