Orphan poems (8)

I’m quite sorry that no-one has ever taken me up on this one, but it may be too much of a private joke. The idea of Eustacia Vye, Queen of Night, and melodramatic ninny par excellence, being a boarding-school matron is one of the most brilliantly funny jokes (I hope) that Thomas Hardy ever staged. I was once condemned to teach this particular novel seven years running, so it may be that it brings out unnecessary hysteria. And of course, having been to a boarding school, I have a fair idea about matrons, who generally conform to the stereotypes in the Molesworth books.

However, the end of the poem needs a bit of work. The idea may have been pushed not too far, but for too long. It might work as a shorter poem.

The Return Of The Matron

She is excellently educated, and would make a good matron in a boarding-school. – Clym on Eustacia Vye in Hardy’s The Return Of The Native

Had a spectator happened upon her,
he would have latinate verb, past tense,
got her to cough up strepsils.

Outside the dormitory, she unfurzes
elastoplast. It stickles her fingers.
She wears a corfiote apron, starched

with parsing. She pictures misery,
the sour light falling from the fly-blown
strip-light, on to her drowsy hair,

spilling the pocked and concrete floor
of the corridors. She stands between
classical reference and classical reference,

kneading a shank of cotton wool,
whistling up earwax. A small boy whines
in his heath sleep. Budmouth Academy

For The Sons Of The Gentry,
it’s five in the morning, November the Fifth.
She makes a bonfire of pyjamas,

gruelling gravy, and lights it
with a flagon of TCP. The caretaker
wakes her with his bucket of slops.


You can hear the poem here:


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