George Barker

(26 February 1913 – 27 October 1991 / Essex, England)

To My Mother


Most near, most dear, most loved and most far,
Under the window where I often found her
Sitting as huge as Asia, seismic with laughter,
Gin and chicken helpless in her Irish hand,
Irresistible as Rabelais, but most tender for
The lame dogs and hurt birds that surround her -
She is a procession no one can follow after
But be like a little dog following a brass band.

She will not glance up at the bomber, or condescend
To drop her gin and scuttle to a cellar,
But lean on the mahogany table like a mountain
Whom only faith can move, and so I send
O all my faith, and all my love to tell her
That she will move from mourning into morning.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Ian Stuart (2/4/2009 6:44:00 AM)

    Within the constraints of the 14 line sonnet, this is a vivid and affectionate portrait of the poet's mother, setting out her many qualities which include a riotous sense of humour, compassion for those in trouble and a resilience in the face of personal danger(the reference to the 'bomber' in line 9 sets the poem in the early 1940s when British cities were under attack by the squadrons of the Luftwaffe) . I like the link in line 3 of 'seismic laughter' to 'a brass band' in line 8 (both equally noisy) .
    The oblique reference to 1 Corinthians 13.2 in lines 11 and 12 changes the tone to a darker hue. Mrs Barker is in mourning_a family bereavement? However the poem ends on a triumphant note. The poet assures his mother that her religious faith and his love will ensure her sadness will be temporary. I think that the last line contains an affectionate reference to her nationality. The words 'mourning' and 'morning' have a similar sound particularly where they are spoken with an Irish accent. (Report) Reply

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