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Notes on the Journey

I don't know much about Alicia Anne Mulvany except that she was a Victorian woman who lived in Germany. After her death her family published a volume of her undistinguished, mostly verse, writings, under the title Notes on the Journey. A lot of the book is taken up with an account of her European travels which would be merely boring in prose but in verse takes on an extra dimension of pointlessness.

Here's one of my favourite pieces, which in its loose scansion and seeming inconsequentiality surely anticipates some of the developments of the 20th century. Those two strange men: are they human or supernatural? Their unsettling presence casts a shadow of doubt over the whole poem, which is reinforced when "We could not see well, as it was dark". And the last couplet is surely a fore-echo of Eliot's Prufrock - do the maidens talk of Michelangelo? We are not told, but I am sure that they do.

Monte Carlo to Cannes, 18 November 1892

At Monte Carlo two strange men got in,

One short and fair, the other dark and thin,

The former never rested, was always in a fidget

The latter gazed at vacancy with features strong and rigid,

Then at next station both descend,

And quick as they came their way both wend.

"Monte Carlo" so beautiful, standing on high,

Your sins are so great, you call down from the sky,

The vengence[sic] of God, on that beautiful place,

Where by their own hands, crowds have died in disgrace,

We leave you behind and at Cannes arrive,

Where we in the buss[sic] to the "Prince of Wales" drive,

The way is so long, we're half in despair,

At distance from sea before we get there.

Cannes, 19 November 1892

We enter a park of Exotics in blow,

Where orange trees, lemon and palm grow,

Our rooms on the ground floor, look on the park,

We could not see well, as it was dark,

But next day we could the foliage admire,

And when it was chilly draw near the wood fire,

Our bedsteads so sweet all curtained with net,

White as the snow with pink or blue rosette.

Everything perfect a prince's castle,

Carpets so soft we heard not a rustle,

Much less a footfall, a lift was near,

The aged to raise and the feeble to cheer,

A study with books piano and charts,

The latter for students, the piano for hearts,

There young men and maidens sang songs and played,

Or up and down the long passages strayed.