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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Helping the truth 'burst forth'

“I was not out to paint beautiful pictures; even painting good pictures was not important to me. I wanted only to help the truth burst forth.” – Alice Duer Miller 
Born in 1874, Duer Miller was an American writer whose poetry actively influenced political opinion. Her feminist verses impacted on the suffrage issue, while her verse-play The White Cliffs about an American girl coming to London encouraged U.S. entry into World War II.   A spectacular success on both sides of the Atlantic, the poem sold over 1 million copies.      
                                  She also wrote many successful novels, short stories and screenplays and was on the very first advisory board for The New Yorker.  Here, for Saturday’s poem, is her poem about an encounter on a train.

                               To An Old Lady In A Train

                                  Her hair was beautifully white
                                  Beneath her bonnet, black as night,
                                 Which, plainly of New England kin,
                                 Was tied with strings beneath her chin.
                                 And when she spoke I had no choice
                                 But listened to that soft crisp voice;
                                 And when she smiled, I saw the truth,
                                 She had been lovely in her youth,
                                 And with those quick, observing eyes,
                                 Was charming still to all the wise.
                                 And still, in spite of bonnet strings,
                                 She thought keen, quaint, amusing things,
                                 With gaiety that many hold
                                 Remarkable in one so old.

                                 We talked ten minutes in a train,
                                 And when we came to part again,
                                 ‘Good-bye, enjoy yourself,’ said she.
                                  I told her that ahead of me
                                 No pleasure beckoned, no, I said,
                                 Stern duty only lay ahead!
                                ‘Oh, well,’ her parting answer ran,
                                ‘Enjoy yourself the best you can.’
                                And so unconquerably gay,
                                She went upon her darkening way.

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