Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Jane Austen in Paradise

Every few months, with two or three cousins, I do a poetry reading in an old people’s home where a dear aunt spent her last few years. We read the sort of poetry we think the residents will know and, we hope, enjoy: Wordsworth’s The Daffodils and W. B. Yeats’ The Isle of Innisfree, for example. We also take requests.

This time someone asked for Jane’s Marriage by Rudyard Kipling, who was an admirer of Jane Austen’s work. Kipling imagines Jane going up the stairs of Heaven on the arm of Sir Walter Scott (also a fan). At the top, she is welcomed by 18th century novelists Henry Fielding and Tobias Smollett, the Spanish writer Miguel Cervantes, and Shakespeare.

I’m sure that many of you know the poem but, in case not, here it is:

Jane went to Paradise:
That was only fair.
Good Sir Walter followed her,
And armed her up the stair.
Henry and Tobias,
And Miguel of Spain,
Stood with Shakespeare at the top
To welcome Jane.

Then the Three Archangels
Offered out of hand,
Anything in Heaven’s gift
That she might command.
Azrael’s eyes upon her,
Raphael’s wings above,
Michael’s sword against her heart,
Jane said, ‘Love.’

Instantly the under-
Standing Seraphim
Laid their fingers to their lips
And went to look for him.
Stole across the Zodiac,
Harnessed Charles’s Wain,
And whispered round the Nebulæ
‘Who loved Jane?’

In a private limbo
Where none had thought to look,
Sat a Hampshire gentleman
Reading of a book.
It was called Persuasion
And it told the plain
Story of the love between
Him and Jane.

He heard the question
Circle Heaven through –
Closed the book and answered:
‘I did – and do!’
Quietly but speedily
(as Captain Wentworth moved)
Entered into Paradise
The man Jane loved!

Jane lies in Winchester, blessed be her shade!
Praise the Lord for making her, and her for all she made.
And, while the stones of Winchester – or Milsom Street – remain,
Glory, Love, and Honour unto England’s Jane!

Picture: from the Ladies' Pocket Magazine, 1831

Elizabeth Hawksley


Anonymous said...

I didn't know this poem, and it made me tear up with happiness. I'm sure this happened!

Thank you for sharing it, and also for going and reading to the older people. (And the captcha code is mmnble - don't mumble, gal!

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

I'm so pleased you enjoyed the poem, Helenajust. I've always loved it.

Jane Jackson said...

What a lovely poem, Elizabeth. I really liked the notion of Jane Austen in such august company.

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

And I love the idea of Jane finding her own Captain Wentworth, Jane. But then, I'm a romantic at heart.