Blog Our Sweet Old Etcetera

Behind the scenes at the Scottish Poetry Library

Lost for Words? Can you help us?

Lizzie, our assistant librarian in the reference section
Lizzie, our assistant librarian in the reference section

At the moment we are looking for information about a minor English poet who wrote verse for children; her name was Elizabeth Fleming, and she appeared most frequently in anthologies in the 1940s and 50s; her own books, Gammon and Spinach and The Creepie-Stool date from 1927 and 1931 respectively. If anyone can supply any biographical information, or put us in touch with any family, our enquirers will be very grateful.

Some lost poems we have been looking for recently:

  • A very short one, probably mid-20th century, about weaving in the Western Isles, something like:   'the looms are not the same, in Harris (or Lewis?) and in – (?)  / the looms in Harris speak Gaelic'
  • ‘the dead and damned of every shade / through our world may now parade’
  • A first line in an English text book from primary school in Ireland in 1975/6: ‘The cold north wind blows far across the sea’
  • A poem about a young boy going to Church by car in London, and sitting thinking back to the times when he went to church in Africa barefoot.
  • From 1957: ‘Have ye ever seen a laddie wi a wee bit o string / how he burls it and twurls it and tries ta mak athin / roon his fingers he will twist it til it maks a funny thing / but its only a laddie’s capers wi a wee bit o string.’
  • a poem which had the last line ‘Everything in life gets done, taking one step after one.’
  • ‘The western winds are blowing, to the Highlands I must go, for spring is scattering blossom...’

There is one poem that we have been asked for quite a few times over the years but have never seen; it is introduced variously as being set in Edinburgh Zoo, or Kelvingrove or Morningside Park, but there is always a poor child on the outside looking in at the park full of prams, with neat nursemaids carefully guarding the little sailor boys, and girls in frilly frocks. The little lost slum child, carrying a battered doll, comes up to the gates and gazes at the lovely toys and frocks … she says to herself ‘I wunner if yon’s heaven’ – it sounds like a proper tear-jerker but we are assured it is funny. If anyone remembers it, please get in touch!

And finally –
Following up on one of the lost poems we blogged about the last time, the poem about the ghost of the narrator’s wife’s dead brother turns out to be ‘The World’ by Robert Creeley: