A Lover’s Lullaby, by Joseph Ashby-Sterry

I found a delightful book of verse in a quite indirect way. A 13 years old poetess who celebrated the 7th birthday of a little girl led, through an artist who photographed and painted girls aged between 8 and 12, to a poet who loved girls aged 16.

On November 2017, reading Nathalia Crane’s third collection of poetry, The Singing Crow and Other Poems, I noticed an illustrated poem dedicated to a little girl on her 7th birthday, and I thought that this would make a nice contribution to the celebration of the 7th anniversary of Pigtails in Paint on February 15, 2018. So I wrote to its administrator, Ron, who answered that “seven is not really a noteworthy landmark,” but “in terms of girls, it is a most delightful age.

So he collected contributions for the blog’s 7th anniversary post, which included the poem “The Seven Ages of Girlhood” by Joseph Ashby-Sterry, from the collection Boudoir Ballads. This poem had been proposed by the English painter and photographer Graham Ovenden.

Boudoir Ballads, which can be found on Internet Archive, is almost entirely devoted to young girls and Ashby-Sterry’s love for them. Through beautiful verse he tells us tenderly about the charms of girls from infancy to young adulthood, but he repeatedly stresses his preference for age 16.

Although many of his works have been preserved, almost nothing is known about the life of Joseph Ashby-Sterry. He was born in 1836 or 1838, lived in England, was unmarried, and he contributed to the British magazines Punch and The Graphic; he died on June 1, 1917.

I give here a charming love poem from that collection, of course illustrated with a painting by Graham Ovenden.

Graham Ovenden - Alice
Graham Ovenden – Alice (Was it only a Dream) (1982)

A   L O V E R’ S   L U L L A B Y.

I.
MIRROR your sweet eyes in mine, love,
See how they glitter and shine!
Quick fly such moments divine, love,
Link your lithe fingers in mine!

II.
Lay your soft cheek against mine, love,
Pillow your head on my breast;
While your brown locks I entwine, love,
Pout your red lips when they’re prest!

III.
Mirror your fate, then, in mine, love;
Sorrow and sighing resign:
Life is too short to repine, love,
Link your fair future in mine!

Source of the poem: Joseph Ashby-Sterry, Boudoir Ballads, London: Chatto and Windus, Piccadilly (1876). The poem was reproduced in The Lazy Minstrel, London: T. Fisher Unwin (1887), available as Project Gutenberg eBook.

Note: I have similarly used the poem “Nine” by Hilda Conkling to write a 9th anniversary post for Pigtails in Paint, but this time I was alone in making it.

This is a revised version of a post previously published on Agapeta, 2018/03/25.

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