Frances Darwin Cornford
Biography of Frances Darwin Cornford
Frances Cornford should not be confused with her husband Francis Cornford.
Frances Crofts Cornford (née Darwin) was an English poet.
She was the daughter of the botanist Francis Darwin and Ellen Crofts, born into the Darwin — Wedgwood family. She was a granddaughter of the British naturalist Charles Darwin. Her elder half-brother was the golf writer Bernard Darwin. She was raised in Cambridge, among a dense social network of aunts, uncles, and cousins, and was educated privately.
In 1909, Frances Darwin married Francis Cornford, a classicist and poet. They had 5 children: Helena (b. 1913), John (1915-1936), a poet and Communist who was killed in the Spanish Civil War. Christopher (1917-1993), an artist and writer
Clare, who became the mother of Matthew Chapman Hugh
Frances Cornford published several books of verse, including Poems (1910), Spring Morning (1915), Autumn Midnight (1923), and Different Days (1928). Mountains and Molehills (1935) was illustrated with woodcuts by Cornford's cousin Gwen Raverat.
She wrote poems including The Guitarist Tunes Up:
With what attentive courtesy he bent
Over his instrument;
Not as a lordly conqueror who could
Command both wire and wood,
But as a man with a loved woman might,
Inquiring with delight
What slight essential things she had to say
Before they started, he and she, to play.
One of Frances Cornford's poems was a favourite of the late Philip Larkin and his lover Maeve Brennan. All Souls' Night uses the superstition that a dead lover will appear to a still faithful partner on that November date. Maev, many years after Larkin's death, would re-read the poem on All Souls:
My love came back to me
Under the November tree
Shelterless and dim.
He put his hand upon my shoulder,
He did not think me strange or older,
Nor I him.
Although the myth enhances the poem - it can be read as the meeting of older, former lovers.
She is buried at the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge.
Frances Darwin Cornford's Works:
Spring Morning (1915)
Autumn Midnight (1923)
Different Days (1928)
Mountains and Molehills (1935)
Poems from the Russian (1943)
Travelling Home & Other Poems (1948)
Collected Poems (1954)
On a Calm Shore (1960)
Fifteen Poems from the French (1976)
Frances Cornford: Selected Poems (1996)
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Frances Darwin Cornford Poems
The Guitarist Tunes Up
With what attentive courtesy he bent Over his instrument; Not as a lordly conquerer who could Command both wire and wood,
To A Lady Seen From The Train
O why do you walk through the fields in gloves, Missing so much and so much? O fat white woman whom nobody loves,
On Rupert Brooke
A young Apollo, golden-haired, Stands dreaming on the verge of strife, Magnificently unprepared For the long littleness of life.
MY father's friend came once to tea. He laughed and talked. He spoke to me. But in another week they said
I Had a little dog, and my dog was very small; He licked me in the face, and he answered to my call;
The New-Born Baby's Song
When I was twenty inches long, I could not hear the thrush's song; The radiance of the morning skies Was most displeasing to my eyes.
I wakened on my hot, hard bed; Upon the pillow lay my head; Beneath the pillow I could hear My little watch was ticking clear.
I laid me down upon the shore And dreamed a little space; I heard the great waves break and roar; The sun was on my face.
The Coast: Norfolk
As on the highway's quiet edge He mows the grass beside the hedge, The old man has for company The distant, grey, salt-smelling sea,
Rhyme For A Phonetician
Brave English language, you are strong as trees, Yet intricate and stately. Thus one sees Through branches clear-embroidered stars. You please
The poplars in the fields of France Are golden ladies come to dance ; But yet to see them there is none But I and the September sun.
Autumn Morning At Cambridge
I ran out in the morning, when the air was clean and new, And all the grass was glittering and grey with autumn dew, I ran out to the apple tree and pulled an apple down, And all the bells were ringing in the old grey town.
The Shadows flickering, the daylight dying, And I upon the old red sofa lying, The great brown shadows leaping up the wall, The sparrows twittering; and that is all.
The Old Witch In The Copse
I am a Witch, and a kind old Witch, There's many a one knows that-- Alone I live in my little dark house With Pillycock, my cat.
I Had a little dog, and my dog was very small;
He licked me in the face, and he answered to my call;
Of all the treasures that were mine, I loved him most of all.
His nose was fresh as morning dew and blacker than the night;
I thought that it could even snuff the shadows and the light;
And his tail he held bravely, like a banner in a fight.
His body covered thick with hair was very good to smell ;