Viola’s Birthday, by Fabian Strachan Woodley

Frantisek Kupka - Andree (1906)
František Kupka – Andrée (1906)

Fabian Strachan Woodley (1888–1957), a poet of the Uranian Movement, worshipped young boys. His only volume of poetry, A Crown of Friendship, is to a large part devoted to celebrating the boys he loved. He nevertheless included in it two poems about young girls.

In the following one, a girl named Viola celebrates her 10th birthday. Apparently, she receives as gifts many beautiful pieces of clothing and jewellery: a robe, a gown, a cap, a ring, a scarf and a purse. But … they are not made by human hands, they come from the simple beauty of nature: dawning, sea-mist, shadows, sunbeams, morning dew, pollen, etc. Thus she does not get real clothes, and she might as well be naked. Indeed, Viola simply receives her own beauty, a gift brought by fairies. They offer her also magical treasures, “a Book of Dreams and Fancies,” “a chain of silent moonbeams” with “a chime of flower bells ringing,” an “amber shell” whose song “No musicians’ art unbinds,” “a vase of crystal water / From the Magic Well of Truth,” and “Last, and Best, a Box of Laughter, / Life and Love, and rose-red Youth!

In the poem “After Plotinus” presented in a previous post, Woodley puts spiritual beauty above physical appearance. Here he tells us that more important than material riches, the most important gift is the natural beauty, happiness, life and love of youth.

Viola’s Birthday
by Fabian Strachan Woodley

VIOLA is ten to-day,
All good Fairies gifts have brought—
Come with me to see the treasures
Fairy hands have wrought!

Here’s a robe of pearly dawning
Fringed with fleecy white sea-mist,
Lined with velvet, stolen at morning
From a dusky rose, sun-kissed;

Here’s a gown of purple shadows
Woven at the dusk of night,
Trimmed with amethyst and rose
From peak-tops at earliest light;

Here’s a cap of mellow sunbeams
Shot with skies of summer blue,
And a ring of kingcup yellow
Diamonded with morning dew;

Here’s a peach-bloom scarf, and purse
Of pollen from a lily flower,
And a Book of Dreams and Fancies
Culled in some forgotten hour;

Here’s a chain of silent moonbeams
Set in flakes of innocent snow,
And a chime of flower bells ringing
Down the Night wind, faint and low.

In this amber shell lie sleeping
Songs of all the fluted winds,
Songs so strangely wrapped in slumber
No musicians’ art unbinds!

Here’s a vase of crystal water
From the Magic Well of Truth—
Last, and Best, a Box of Laughter,
Life and Love, and rose-red Youth!

Thanks to ‘A.’ for drawing my attention to Woodley, this poem and the above website.

Source of the poem A Crown of Friendship and Other Poems, Taunton, Woodley, Williams & Dunsford, Ltd (1921), reprinted in 2019 by Facsimile Publisher, Delhi, India. See also the transcription (with some variations) on the Fabian Strachan Woodley site.

Previously published on Agapeta, 2015/09/21.

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