Friday, 12 March 2010


In the August of the year 1908, Mrs Alice Fildew of Estuary View, Exton, had the gratification of seeing her verses printed in the local paper, ‘The Exmouth Journal’. It was not the first time she had tasted literary success. In 1890 she had sent verses to the great and famous soprano, Adelina Patti, who had replied by sending to her a signed photograph inscribed ‘to Mrs Alice Fildew with many thanks for charming verses. – Adelina Patti Nicolini.’ In 1901 her verses on the death of Queen Victoria, ‘Victoria, sweet mother, name peerless through ages.. &co.’ appeared in ‘The Devon Express’ and no doubt Alice enjoyed many other triumphs of which I am not aware. As a poet and songwriter Mrs F. clearly shared a Muse with the great Sir Walter Scott. The century that interposed itself between her work and his was to her as nothing. What follows is the third stanza of her four stanza work ,‘To the Vale of Lympstone’:

And yon – there, how pleasant in rich, pastoral beauty,
Stands ‘Nutwell’ the Court of fam’d Drake’s glory’d name,
Where, hard by, I’ve watched the last gleam of rare sunset
Expire mid refulgence of sky-glow aflame.
Whilst o’er the calm Est’ry floats stately yon pennant
From Powderham’s old castle and Church as of yore!
Where near sleeps that good Earl - of Devon’s best (lineage)
’Neath the dear, hallow’d spot by the wavelet-kissed shore.

Is ‘yon – there’ preferable to ‘yonder’? I wonder. The word at the end of the penultimate line is obscured. It’s not ‘lineage’ but I’m blessed if I can work out what it is.

Well, another century has passed and ‘yon pennant’ is still to be seen floating from Powderham Castle across the ‘Est’ry’ ‘as of yore’, at least it floats whenever the Earl is at home. Rumour has it he hides in cramped quarters and dark passages at the back of the house while the trippers scuttle about. And we still have plenty of ‘refulgence of sky-glow aflame’. You should have seen it last night.

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