Skip to main content
My Mum died yesterday morning after suffering a series of strokes a few months ago. I had been in Manchester to see her and say goodbye whilst she was in hospital as we had been told on three separate occasions that she was about to 'go'. But each time she perked up and continued to fight a little while longer. But then last week she was moved to a hospice. They called me on Monday to say that she had been given the last rites from a local priest. So I came to Manchester once again. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was confronted with when I got here. I didn't think she could get any worse than how she had been/looked whilst in the hospital, but over the past few weeks she had deteriorated to such an extent that there was little left of her. I walked into her room at the hospice on Monday to see a woman who couldn't have weighed more than 3 or 4 stone - she was nothing more than a skeleton with a thin layer of skin. She was 63, yet she easily looked 93! She was also gone mentally, her eyes fixed on one spot. All that happened was that she still breathed - and even that was laborious. It has made me much more sympathetic to the whole issue of euthenasia.
I already know what poem I want to read out for her at her funeral, which will probably be held next week. It is Arthur Hugh Clough's Say Not the Struggle Nought Availeth. It is a poem which I sought hard to find and knew as soon as I read it that it was the right one for her. A life in battle and struggle but then, by the last line, just hoping a glimmer of hope will fulfill its promise. Whilst the poem was decided on I thought I'd better also check out the poet himself as I'd hate to read out a poem by someone who hated women or something and after reading a small part of his life the feeling that the poem was just right was confirmed. He died young, he made vocal his many doubts about religion and, because he was in love with Florence Nightingale's cousin, he came to care deeply and campaign for change in nursing and medical conditions of the time.

Say Not The Struggle Nought Availeth
Arthur Hugh Clough

Say not the struggle nought availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not nor faileth,
And as things have been, things remain;
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke conceal’d,
Your comrades chase e’en now the fliers—
And, but for you, possess the field.
For while the tired waves vainly breaking
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.
And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light,
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look! the land is bright.

Online text © 1998-2008 Poetry

Popular posts from this blog

Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

My PhD critical paper

I thought I'd upload the critical element of my PhD thesis. Hopefully, for those who are interested enough to read it, it will make sense despite the references to my creative work, which I can't upload as I'm seeking publication. And besides, at 68,000 words...

I'm also going to tweak section one of this three section critical paper with a view to journal publication because of the academic interest in the claims I make of Mary.

-Dedicated with love and respect to Dr Bruce Lloyd-

And in memory of my parents:
Thomas Valentine and Joan Theresa
Good people who taught me so much more than they realised


The biggest thank-you is due to Norma Clarke, Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Kingston University, who supervised this PhD. I never had cause to doubt my initial instincts as Norma proved to be the best mentor I could ever have wished for.

I would also like to acknowledge the generous studentship that I was fortunate to be awarded by Kingston Universi…

Booker Shortlist announced

It's been a while... I know. Dog walking on the Downs, a bit of theatre, a bit of baking, a bit of writing etcetera etcetera. I also managed to read two complete books in the past month, which I was so pleased about. I had not read a whole book for about a year. The first was A Lie About My Father by Scottish poet/writer, John Burnside; a very well written memoir about father and son, but like all memoirs, some unreliability I felt. Poignant and tragic in equal measure. Then my husband returned from Cyprus (too hot for me this time of year, I can barely cope with England!) with Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong. He loved it. And then I read it and also loved it. I had originally picked it up several years ago but didn't get beyond Amiens, where the first section is set, but was really glad I did this time around. Another incredibly well written book in the style of a good Victorian! I felt a bit unsure about bits of Elizabeth, in the later section, but I have never learnt so muc…