04 July 2014

Today, 4 July: A boat beneath a sunny sky

Today is the 4th July; it is celebrated as Independence Day in the United States.

It’s also the anniversary of a boat trip, “all in the golden afternoon”, along the River Thames in 1862. Three young girls were taken on the journey by two clerics. A book of the story that was told to the girls was subsequently published, followed by a companion volume a few years later. This second books ends with an untitled poem, one of the poet's finest:

A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July—

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear—

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die.
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream—
Lingering in the golden gleam—
Life, what is it but a dream?

The poem does refer to the original trip. It’s an acrostic; take the initial letter of each line to discover who is being referenced.

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