Polly

Writings and Witterings

Nellie and Arthur

32 Comments

For dVerse’s “Poetics ~ ‘His’tory, ‘Her’story & time machines” hosted by Brian Miller.

domestic servants

Domestic Servants (Photo credit: MuseumWales)

Nellie and Arthur

Londoners by birth
Victorian
Little or no mirth
Authoritarian
Respected
Feared

Nellie and Arthur met and married
Below stairs
They worked
Together
Then moved
To Wales

Eleven children
Nine survivors
Annie the eldest
Raised the others
Or so she said
Nellie was busy

Having more
Children
Arthur, a mineworker
Nellie, a work-shirker
Annie, a sad girl
Grim, in a whirl

Resentful
Critical
Her take on Nell
Put Annie through Hell
Playing them off
One against t’other.

They met and married
Below stairs
Arthur and Nell
Time will be telling
Of their lives
And their dwelling

Polly Robinson © 2012

mine shaft in snow

Mine Shaft in Snow (Photo credit: petalouda62)

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32 thoughts on “Nellie and Arthur

  1. The sparseness of this feels right for the material, and it has a sad quality, reflecting those times so well.

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  2. wow…eleven children and the hard work in a mine.. bet there were many stories to tell and poems to write.. not an easy life but a rich life in a way for sure with good and bad things going on, just like life is.. thanks for taking us back to an england many years ago…

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    • It seems incredible to us, now, to think of having so many children ~ she was like the old woman who lived in a shoe, she had so many children she didn’t know what to do!

      A very different time.

      Thank you for your thoughts Claudia.

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  3. You’ve pretty much written the story of my Grandparents. It has authority – Andy mentions sparseness… yes, it’s the sparseness of truth, of their lives. Congrats.

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    • Thanks David ~ good to see it’s identifiable for others ~ there must be many with such Grandparents … smiles … wonderful people, but scary!

      Many thanks for your thoughts.

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  4. Recent live like your ancestor history programme made the reason for so many children clear. As they could work from a very early age they helped make a weekly living income and a support for old age. The same family experienced family life in the key decades of the 20th century and were shocked to find how fragmented and disconnected family life is now – who has family meals around the same table each day and meal now!

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    • I heard about that programme but missed it, it must have been fascinating. What a good question re who has family meals around the same table each day now …

      Thanks for your comments John.

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  5. No such thing as birth control back then, only abstinence and with nothing else to do… that would have been a hard life. And even harder on the eldest girl who had to grow up long before her time so that she could be a little mother to her younger siblings. My mum had 10 of us, although we were all split up and only 6 of us ever lived with her at one time. This is such a true picture of life back then for the lower classes, yes, spartan, rigid and strict.
    Really enjoyed this Polly.

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    • So true Bren – especially your comments about the eldest girl – one seldom thinks about the impact such a life has on subsequent generations, but when one does it’s easier to understand, to make allowances for, the people they became.

      Glad you enjoyed it, and thank you for your comments 🙂

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  6. what an interesting tale…i def like the sparseness of it…because in a way i think it would fit for many people….all the children, the hard work…those that dont understand the way we live and trying to point it out…you really bring their story to life though…well done…

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  7. I like the form and style of this, and it tells a familiar, sad tale. Very nicely done!

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  8. Doesn’t sound like a happy life really, an existence but not filled with joy. Perhaps because it was the norm, nothing more was expected….sadly. A thoughtful write.

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  9. Well done – you manage to fit all this drama here–family dynamics, tradition, personality, cultural history. k.

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  10. The bit about 11 children and 9 surviving works well for being so matter of fact. And you’ve got the hints at their being more than one take on the family history – mother and daughter. Maybe father too… I wonder if there could be a companion piece poem from the daughter’s p.o.v. to contrast….

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    • Thanks Holly, yes, definitely more than one take on the family history ~ where would one stop, I wonder, with companion pieces, with Arthur’s mother / father / brothers / sisters, his grandparents, great-grandparents? Same for Nellie? What about the generations that come after? We see Annie here, what about her husband, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great … you get the drift … I love that this poem has stimulated so much interest and brought comments about familiarity, living in hard times, tradition, cultural history, fabulous.

      Thank you so much my dear friend for your thoughtful remarks and thanks again to everyone who has commented.

      Like

  11. I love this section:

    “Annie the eldest
    Raised the others
    Or so she said
    Nellie was busy

    Having more
    Children
    Arthur, a mineworker
    Nellie, a work-shirker”

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  12. True for so many. And Annie “grim”…I don’t envy her children, either.

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  13. I came from an Irish Protestant family, so birth control was allowed! Mom had four girls; three lived, one stillborn. Even then there were the pittings of one against the other (my mother loved that game and she used us for pawns).

    This story is so filled with wicked clever rhymes, brilliantly unfolded lives, even “belowstairs.” I write about my grandparents a lot and wonder what life would have brought them had they not lived in America, away from that service life. This is a side of the global system my people (my mother’s people, the Irish ones) didn’t know. My dad was Mayflower stock and they HAD servants. (shudder, embarrassment) I don’t claim them as mine; they merely had me in their grips for a while…!

    Polly, this was an impressive piece, from startling image above it, through the telling of it. Thank you so much. Peace, Amy
    http://sharplittlepencil.com/2012/08/04/elementary-school-lesson-dverse/

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  14. Amy, thank you for your comments ~ I love the comments received about this poem, makes one remember why doing a blog seemed a good idea, it’s great to share with like-minded people ~ so many have seen things to identify with ~ and it’s global. Thanks for visiting. x

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  15. I enjoyed this so much! You packed a lot in there…we got the stern couple (but not so stern that they couldn’t make a gaggle of babies together)..whew…and then the family dynamics of hardworking Arthur, lazy mother, resentful daughter and more… Loved the images this evoked.

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  16. Ahh loved this, anything historical is a hit with me, the lives of ordinary people back then were so different.

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