Eve Song by Dame Mary Gilmore

I reviewed Michael McGirr’s Books That Saved My Life a week or so ago. It was a delight of much loved (by me and Michael) books and poems as well as an introduction to many more that I have yet to read.

One of those was by Mary Gilmore. Her second volume of poetry, The Passionate Heart, published in 1918, reflected her feelings and thoughts about WWI.

McGirr waxed lyrical about one of her poems within, called Eve Song.

There is more to Mary Gilmore than nostalgia. She gave voice to the pain and neglect suffered by women who were required to accommodate the wild dreams and poor behaviour of menfolk…The poem surely reflects the sense of abandonment experienced by women in time of conflict and violence. But it also captures the ambivalent feelings of someone entwined in a relationship which is liberating for only one of the people in it…. 

The real success of a The Passionate Heart is its ability to bring darkness to light. Mary Gilmore is, to my knowledge, the first Australian writer to deal in and open and fearless way with the challenge of living with depression.

Mary Jean Gilmore (1865-1962) by Adelaide Perry

Eve Song 

Dame Mary Gilmore

I span and Eve span
A thread to bind the heart of man;
But the heart of man was a wandering thing
That came and went with little to bring:
Nothing he minded what we made,
As here he loitered, and there he stayed.
I span and Eve span
A thread to bind the heart of man;
But the more we span the more we found
It wasn’t his heart but ours we bound.
For children gathered about our knees:
The thread was a chain that stole our ease.
And one of us learned in our children’s eyes
That more than man was love and prize.
But deep in the heart of one of us lay
A root of loss and hidden dismay.

He said he was strong. He had no strength
But that which comes of breadth and length.
He said he was fond. But his fondness proved
The flame of an hour when he was moved.
He said he was true. His truth was but
A door that winds could open and shut.

And yet, and yet, as he came back,
Wandering in from the outward track,
We held our arms, and gave him our breast,
As a pillowing place for his head to rest.
I span and Eve span,
A thread to bind the heart of man!

Jennifer @Holds Upon Happiness posts a lovely Poem for a Thursday each week. I’m enjoying sourcing poems from my recent reads to join in with her at the moment.

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