Daily Archives: May 23, 2020

Portraits By Moonlight: A Bit of Fun!

Bond, Jane; Fran Maranzi, Motorbike Dispatch Controller; The ‘Biker Girl in my poem, http://www.artuk.org/artworks/fran-maranzi-motorbike-dispatch-controller-195137

One of the joys of being at Girton is our thriving poetry group. We meet once a fortnight (alas, of late only by Zoom) and read out and discuss the poems, on a chosen theme, which we have all submitted anonymously. Recently our theme was Girton itself, and just for fun I wrote a mock-gothic ballad about “The People’s Portraits‘, the wonderful collection of portraits of ordinary work-a-day people that we have hanging in our halls, imagining that in this lockdown they came to life and complained about how much they were missing the students! Anyway the poetry group chose it to be one of the poems on the Girton Youtube Channel for our ‘poetry fortnight’ and I thought I would share it with you here.

Ive included the words of the poem after the video.


Portraits By Moonlight

Beyond old Girton College tower

I watched the sun decline

And soon on all its empty courts

The moon began to shine.


The bright moon shone on hearth and hall

Where students used to throng

And on the empty chapel choir

That once was rich with song


It shone through casements high and low,

Through panes of leaded glass

And where the magic moonlight fell

A strange thing came to pass


Down all the lonely corridors

The people’s portraits hung

And as the moonlight touched each face

It seemed a faint chime rung,


A faint chime rung and then, behold:

Each portrait sighed and stirred

The walls that held them echoed round

As each one spoke a word.


And such strange murmuration rose

When each one spoke to each

That I came near so I might hear

The tenor of their speech


‘Alas’ said one, (the tramp I think)

‘I miss our students so

I loved the way they looked at me

I hate to see them go’


‘They should have been back weeks ago’

The Oarsman soon replied

‘There’s something that has held them back

There’s something wrong outside!’


‘There’s something wrong outside indeed’

The biker girl put in,

‘Time was when all the roads I’d ride

Were full of traffic din


But listen how strange silence reigns

Afar on land and sea

No traffic brings the students back

Wherever they may be.’


And all the portraits sighed and said

‘Alas that this should be

How much we miss the merry throng

That kept us company’


And then I heard a voice ring clear

From down the dining hall

A voice of true authority

Was summoning them all.


Turning her folded hands a while,

Showing her kindly face,

Emily Davies spoke aloud,

The foundress of this place:


‘Fear not my fellow portraits, now

Be still and hear me out

For I have vanquished many a foe

And banished many a doubt.


It may be we will have to wait

A little longer yet,

It may be many a moon will rise,

And many a sun will set,


But I am sure the day will come,

Our watch is not in vain,

When these old halls ring out with life

And Girton thrives again!


I waited many years myself

To bring about my dream

But our endurance won the day

And realised our scheme.


And then we waited all those years

Till women got degrees

This absence is as nothing, when

Compared with waits like these’


And then the moon was hid in clouds,

The portraits all were still,

But each one seemed to keep for us

Unconquerable will.


I slipped away, to ponder on

The strange tale of that night

And when the sun arose today

I knew we’d be all right.

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Filed under Girton, imagination, Poems