The Threadbear of Needle St


This little fantasy is tucked into the back of the funeral file.

The Threadbear of Needle St.

There was once a surreptitious Threadbear who lived in Needle St.

His safe home was in the basement of a Bank . The bankers did not know this .

His room was rather dark, with steel walls, but he had hung it with some smart paper he found in stacks on a shelf. It was white with a squiggly design of black and red .

The front door had a combination lock . Since the Threadbear was an unsociable but mechanically-minded animal he had changed the combination to BEAR 666 .

Sometimes a banker came to call on him. The Threadbear lay low , and after trying a few likely combinations the banker went away .

The Threadbear had no friends . He lived a peaceful life .

In his larder he kept honey , flies and embroidery silk in many pleasant colours . The blues were the tastiest but disagreed with him . He was a bilious Threadbear .

One day the Threadbear had run out of flies . He thought he would step along to the Sports Shop and buy some more .
“There’s sure to be nothing but feather kinds left” he said disconsolately as he put on his spats .

On the way he met a Wretched Being . It was carrying all the equipment of a fisherman.

“Why not take a tram to the Sports Shop ?” said the Wretched Being .

They climbed aboard the first tram that came by .

“You pay going and I’ll pay coming back,” said the Threadbear, and he thought to himself “ We won’t come back together.”

Are the later poems copied since before JP? no

The surface of your writing, like the surface of Loch Ness

6. The surface of your writing, like the surface of Loch Ness,
Reflects with studied innocence the radiant summer sky,
And sometimes, as the critics and the fisherfolk profess,
There breaks the undulation of a black bulk rippling by.

We place the pretty legend by the creatures that we know —
The dolphin, as it were, the water-serpent and the whale;
But the silent stir comes swelling from that cavern far below
Where the monster coils in comfort, swishing gently with his tail.

[I had this already, but undated]

This must have had some connection with Jocelyn or it couldn’t have been included in the readings at his funeral. It may have been what she called a rare showing to a student whose poetry she had criticized when he showed it .. just to show she ‘knew how to go on’. Or it may have been meant to show him that she saw through his affectations, that he was hiding talents to impress her when he chose to show those.

7. Thank God for themselvesness,
The sheer unpredicted
Distinct and defiant
Otherness of them !

Though mortally subject to bent , circumstance and stress ,
They stand once and for all determined by contingent choice ;
Themselves in their scope the uttermost fruits of free-will ,
And they a set of souls responsible for them.

Thank God for themselvesness , then :
But this , and merely the flow , is insufficient .
Strolling the path beyond the churchyard , I
Eat over-ripe strawberries and hurl their leaves through the railings .


The funeral collection makes no change in this . It expresses Marion’s consistent insistence on our all being accountable, for belief as well as action , and that no excuse is possible whether mental illness or nervous disability. According to Jocelyn’s father, Jocelyn did at the last join the Roman church. For Marion, the sticking point would remain, in Papal Infallibility.

The Birds

Jocelyn Powell, who had been both a pupil and a friend, moved to Birmingham in 1961, and there became Director of the University Department of Drama and Theatre Arts. Marion herself was invited to join Birmingham and did so in 1960; but she resigned in resistance to John Russell Brown’s neglect of the justice of starting Honours work with first-years fresh from VI-form training. Jocelyn died unexpectedly in September 1986. At his funeral, Marion read by way of a tribute to him one of his and eight of her own poems. Two of these she significantly altered for the purpose. This group of readings is filed together in the collection of her poetry. I copy them here together, as the tribute she designed, but they will be indexed with the rest of her poems.

What Marion read for Jocelyn in September 1986.


In moments when the sky is broken by the flight of sparrows,
The air above the fountain clouded with doves,
When the wires bend with the weight of swifts,

When the rooks hang like a swarm over the pine trees,
When the swans are lifted up over the lake,
When flamingos light on the waters,

The cry of birds is in the air , the cry of spirits in the wind,
And the insects that come out to savour the damp evening
Hum, buzz, and are devoured.

The birds settle, gossip, are still, and fly:
The grubs dart, hover, and are still:
The Dead at last, their heads beneath their wings, are full.

The crying ceases.

The Secret

The Secret

The lark had heard it from the meadow grasses ,
The grasses from the wind , the wind from the reeds ;
The reeds had seen it written in the water
By the long drooping fingers of the willow ;
The willow heard it from the singing river ;
But where the river heard it , who can tell ?
I cannot read the secret in the water —
Come now to me my sudden kingfisher ,
Come as my master , my interpreter :
Teach me to listen , teach me to decipher .
That I may grow at last to share that secret
Written by willow fingers in the water ,
Told by the reeds to the wind , by the wind to the grasses ,
And so by the sweet meadow grasses to the morning lark .

17 June 1954

The Shepherd Swain

The Shepherd Swain

All in a morning of May ,
A rather bleak May morning ,
My friends and companions scorning ,
I wandered the woodland way :
That is to say
I lurked beneath the few trees yet remaining,
Because I had no hat , and it was raining .
The while I thought to frame a pastoral song
Tuned to the rude pipe of some rustic swain .
This did not take me long .
So sad my music , yet so sweet the strain
I could not choose but weep :
The sky wept with me in a swirl of rain
And by this sign I knew my song was good .
I thought to go and sing it to the sheep
So turned my collar up and left the wood ,
Skirted the meadow , plashed across the stream ,
And came upon them unexpectedly :
With moving mouths they stood ,
Their long mild faces all incurious ,
Like a row of American airmen chewing gum ;
They made me furious .
“Up , fleecy flock! ” said I , “The spring is come ,
Why do you loiter undirectedly ?
Shake off your sheepish dream .
Caper and prance and bound
(As Wordsworth bade you ) to the tabor’s sound !
Ah, let your guileless glee
A dumb rebuke , a fitting lesson be
To miserable me ,
Unhappy swain , sad shepherd that I am !”
They stood and gazed at me without reply .
I measured glances with the nearest lamb :
The first to blush was I .

[ 18 crossed out and 17 written above ]
18 May 1954

The sweet of life is mine , and mine to give

The sweet of life is mine , and mine to give ,
If you by your acceptance make it mine ;
Yours is the mastery of all that live
If your life to my mastery resign .
For what in life is sweet by love is sweet ,
And love when sweetest may not live alone ;
Till love with love in sweet submission meet
Love has no power to comprehend his own .
Yield then your heart , and take it yours again
With all my heart . with all the sweet of life ;
Fear not that pleasure once possessed may wane —
Happy the bride , more happy yet the wife .
The richness of our love is but begun
When all I ask and all you grant are one .

7 April 1954

The gentleness of heaven encompass thee

The gentleness of heaven encompass thee
As night enfolds thy bed ; sleep now secure ,
The armour of thy soul laid by till dawn .
Round thee four angels , ever vigilant
This night stand steadfastly ;
Their wings , as thy soul pure ,
Soft as the feathered snow now drifting down
Austerely , delicately ,
Wrap all the room in silence infinite .

Most greatly loved , most greatly worth the loving ,
Sleep on , and take thy rest : my heart with thee
Lies wrapped in feathered silence till the dawn .
My chastened thoughts now lend thy chastity
A snowcold covering .
No other love for me
Had ever life : when life and time are done ,
All longing , all remembering ,
I look to love thee in eternity

28 January 1954

Thus sang he , thus his plaint began

Thus sang he , thus his plaint began :
“Why should I mourn that thou art gone
Who being here hast not my heart ?
I fear thy power to do me hurt ,
Yet come , dear love , yet come again !”
Plaintive his words , his music gay ;
Sweet-throated as the nightingale
In moonlit coppice fitly heard
Thus sang he , thus :

“Witch , that so sweetly canst beguile ,
I pace love’s maze with thee for guide ;
The hedge is sharp , the paths are hard ,
Thy absence stays my certain harm —
Yet come again , yet come to good !”
Thus sang he , thus .

26 November 1953

The lily need not struggle to be pure

The lily need not struggle to be pure ,
Nor the rose guard her scent ;
Their beauty is by gift and must endure :
Thine is but lent .

True that each flower must die , like thee ; but know ,
Though all to dust resign ,
Somewhere the perfect rose and lily grow :
Thy life is thine .

Live then as life becomes thee : let my rhyme
Praising thee pure and sweet ,
Guide to that garden where , secure from time ,
Perfections meet .

Translation of L‘Impossible’ by Marceline Desbordes-Valmore

Translation of L‘Impossible’ by Marceline Desbordes-Valmore :

We will restore the days when life takes wing ,
And soars , a very skylark , to the skies ,
When so much brightness dazzles in her eyes
She falls , she drowns amid the flowers of spring .
Those flowers that scent her nest , her soul , her dream ,
And gloss her feathers at the sun’s first gleam !

God ! for one thread of gold to knit my hours ,
One splinter of that prism rainbow-gay .
That dreaming deep in those sweet days , sweet flowers ,
I might be free , a child born yesterday .

Then in my mother’s love my future slept ;
Then death among my kin was still unknown ;
All lived for me , vain child , for me alone ;
My life was paradise , regained or kept .

I loved , but what I loved I could not name ;
My heart beat high with joy , I knew not why ;
For me all nature then was scent and flame ;
I yearned to clasp those days . . . too long gone by .

3 April 1953

Spectator competition No.216 Set by J. M. Cohen to be received by April 1