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.

If you are enjoying these posts, you might like, on occasion,(though not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish.
Buy Me A Coffee



Filed under Girton, imagination, Poems

15 responses to “Portraits By Moonlight: A Bit of Fun!

  1. Lauretta

    Hello Want to ‘buy a coffee’ but don’t want to do PayPal, any other option? Thanks a lot for your poems Lauretta’s

    Sent from my iPad


    • malcolmguite

      Thanks Lauretta, I’m not sure how to make that work. But if you’d like to buy one of my books of poetry that would also do me good. Just look me up on Amazon or the website of any bookstore Thanks M

  2. jenebba

    Tried to buy you a coffee (well deserved|) but I don’t have a mobile phone so I could not fill in the form to order the doffee!!!! Thank you for yoir insight and poetry.

    Jennifer Edie *Rev J Edie – Eyemouth – Scottish Borders*.

  3. Thank you for not using the words “virus” or “uncertain times” not even once. For we are certain that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. ; )

  4. Karen Looby

    Thank you for this encouragement, Malcolm, not only for this particular time of waiting but for all of the seasons of life when we look to the Lord for steadfast faith in times of suffering.

  5. Connie Bach

    Very clever

  6. Jean Hall-Armstrong

    Love it. Thank you. Jean


  7. eleanor prugh

    I have come to love Girton, a place I knew nothing of a long month ago. This poem is wonderful … helping me imagine something of its ilk concerning College of William and Mary (VA) where I graduated 65 years ago. You are a treasure, and I’m happy to have found you in this life.

  8. Kathy McMurray

    I’ve just this week discovered your blog through a friend who shared one of your sonnets. I met you almost 18 years ago, when my little group from Nashville was led by you on a wonderful tour of Cambridge. I’m so blessed to become reacquainted!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.