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a little bit of ivory

Her pen she would caress and fondle
while most particular
that after straight lines, horizontal,
came perpendicular.
Of ideas there was not a lack,
they poured out of her head,
on horizontal lines the black,
while ones that crossed were red,
for money was in short supply
and paper, pens and ink,
and so she double-crossed to try
to write the thoughts she’d think.
“A little bit of ivory,
the finest writing brush, ”
she had, and left posterity
her microscopic touch.
With sensibility and sense,
not prejudice or pride,
she wrote while sitting on the fence,
her criss-cross script our guide.
Remember, though, when reading her,
how much her writing cost;
when puzzled by the black, refer
to red lines if you're lost,
for what a pleasure when you read,
believing you are lost in
black words, to find the words that bleed,
and flow red from Miss Austen.

Jane Austen used to save paper by writing horizontally in black ink and vertically in red. Richard Jenkyns has written a book about her called A Fine Brush on Ivory: An Appreciation of Jane Austen, whose title is based on her comment on her writing: ‘the little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush, as produces little effect after much labor.’


Submitted: Monday, March 02, 2009
Edited: Monday, November 09, 2009

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  • Allemagne Roßmann (2/3/2010 6:17:00 PM)

    'Her pen she would caress and fondle
    while most particular
    that after straight lines, horizontal,
    came perpendicular.' wonderful start and very lively image of the entire poem

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  • Rachel Ann love, love, love and life Butler (11/7/2009 6:03:00 PM)

    'And left posterity
    her microscopic touch'

    Rachel Ann Butler

  • Marie Shine (3/17/2009 2:13:00 PM)

    A lovely poem, beautifully written.A great tribute to a very talented Lady, who left this world a better and richer place on her passing, because of her wonderful writing.A well deserved 10 from me.

  • Maitreyee Joshi (3/14/2009 4:04:00 AM)

    A lovely poem Dr hepner!

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