There was a certain song performed in a film from long ago, one that states what a boon it was to be an Englishman at the dawn of the Edwardian Age. In this so-called ‘Age of Men’, what was ever said of the women? For this reason, it was believed something should be written about the ‘provincial scenery’. That is, the women of Britain who, amidst the Victorian morality of the time of their birth, were expected to become what Vera Brittain called ‘pretty-pretty things’. Women seen and not heard. Women unable to strive independently for their right to representation, to education beyond certain ages, in any academic field, and fundamentally, to agency over their lives. The nameless heroine of this poem is part of the ‘scenery’. Inspired by the likes of the Pankhurst family of Manchester and discouraged by Mr Asquith (then PM of Great Britain) and his draconian salvo to the changing times—the Cat and Mouse Act—our heroine finds herself witnessing great upheaval to the social order in confluence with the passing of Halley’s Comet. Was this lunar show symbolic? Or was it merely ephemeral? Read and find out.
Provincial Scenery Behind the drowsing churchyard, In the vaunted dales, There is a path of ribbon spun round the valley; As the fretful crows shriek and fly, circling Aloft in the limpid skies comes scudding a comet Halley. Of the Angels and Archangels, and all the company of heaven, One's standpoint to this somnolent lunar show is shared, (For Halley’s Comet passes every seventy-five years) It stands, as all else good in life, something so rare. Roughly hewn through the fain, Curiosity shall find the independent woman. For as if weaving the fabric of dreams, Inspiring action and provoking popular odium; The Pankhurst family make five stitches in time. Lo! To stand undaunted facing the tide, Marching ‘neath this simple banner: Deeds not Words! – blesséd battle cry; Why, it should be no crime; Yet outside Westminster and sullen halls of Parliament, On the Pears soapbox, afore the podium, shines A vein of flint amid the bedrock of most vain gentlemen, Spanning provincial county to city metropolitan. For to be middle-class, and a woman, in this Golden Age of Apprehension, (Mr Asquith’s Cat and Mouse Act notwithstanding), Proves to be the diffuse sensation, of King Edward's time. Though something in the sunny continent, Far removed from this grey sombre island, Breaks through its ancient muffle: The rumbled sentiment of a wartime rhyme.