The Vances and The Turners Loved Poetry
by Linda C Butler
The Vances and Turners enjoyed reciting poetry and spent countless hours memorizing. There was drudgery in farm work and in the days before radio and television, poetry was a diversion. Children learned poetry at an early age and were encouraged to give recitations. School concerts were held where children recited the poetry they had learned. Ballads, which told a story of long ago, were favorites of the older folks, as was Robert Service.
Charlie Vance recited poetry to pass the time as he drove teams of horses. Steve and Charlie both loved Robert Service and his wicked tales of events that happened under the Northern skies.
The Cremation of Sam McGee
by Robert W Service
There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.
The full poem can be found here.
One of Myrtle Forsyth’s favorites was The Forest Fire. Can you hear the terror building in her voice as she tells of the fire sweeping to the cabin of the unsuspecting pioneers?
The Forest Fire
by Charles G.D. Roberts
The night was grim and still with dread;
No star shone down from heaven’s dome;
The ancient forest closed around
The settler’s lonely home.
There came a glare that lit the north;
There came a wind that roused the night;
But child and father slumbered on,
Nor felt the growing light.
There came a noise of flying feet,
With many a strange and dreadful cry;
And sharp flames crept and leapt along
The red verge of the sky.
There came a deep and gathering roar.
The father raised his anxious head;
He saw the light, like a dawn of blood
That streamed across his bed.
This is from The Book of the Native by Charles G.D. Roberts, published 1896. The full poem can be found here.
Charlie Vance used to recite a story about the pig which turned out to be a song.
The Famous Pig Song
(Clarke Van Ness, music by F. Henri Klickmann)
‘Twas an evening in October, I’ll confess I wasn’t sober,
I was carting home a load with manly pride,
When my feet began to stutter and I fell into the gutter,
And a pig came up and lay down by my side.
Then I lay there in the gutter and my heart was all a-flutter,
Till a lady, passing by, did chance to say:
“You can tell a man that boozes by the company he chooses,”
Then the pig got up and slowly walked away.
The full song can be found here.
Grandma Emily (Vance Jackman) could recite poetry from memory all day long. Most of the poems she knew were sad. This one has a happy ending:
The Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight
England’s sun was slowly setting
o’re the hill tops far away
filling all the land with beauty
at the close of one sad day
and its last rays kissed the forehead
of a man and maiden fair
he so old and feeble
she so young and fair
It’s a story about an old sexton who always rang the curfew bell at night and a young woman who didn’t want the bell to ring that night because she had a lover in prison who was to die.
I have a lover in yon prison
doomed this very night to die
at the ringing of the curfew
and no earthly help is nigh
The girl climbed the tower and hung onto the gong so that the bell didn’t ring and the old man was so deaf he didn’t know if it rang or not. Cromwell came that night with his soldiers to do the execution. When he heard how the girl had stopped the bell from ringing, he let her lover go free. The full poem is here.
I have a tattered copy of a poem called The Hell-Bound Train, which was probably belonged to my dad, Charlie Vance, but I don’t recall him reciting it. My Grandmother Emily Vance (Jackman) was a religious lady, so it may also have been hers as it deals with redemption. Author is unknown. The poem can be found here.
The Hell-Bound Train
A Texas cowboy lay down on a barroom floor,
Having drunk so much he could drink no more;
So he fell asleep with a troubled brain
To dream that he rode on a hell-bound train…..
The boiler was filled with lager beer
And the devil himself was the engineer; ….
Then he prayed as he never had prayed
To be saved from his sin and the demon’s power;
And his prayers and his vows were not in vain,
For he never road the hell-bound train.
Today some of the Vance-Turner descendants write poetry and stories and carry on the family tradition.