Sunday, January 5, 2014

Poetry Sunday - The Glories of Provence

You may recall that mother and dad took a trip to Provence in October, 1995. You may also recall that dad wrote a Chaucer-like homage to the pilgrims on that trip and delivered it at the final banquet. It must have been a fine performance. Myk rediscovered the poem and, though it's a bit long and about people we don't know, felt it should be considered for Poetry Sunday. I agree—if for no other reason than the creed of the last stanza—it captures the feeling of dad and, hopefully, of all of us.

The Glories of Provence
by John L. Harvey 
 When that October with his sun so mellow
Starts causing summer's green to turn to yellow…
And as the earth cools the year unravels,
Then do Americans long to go on travels;
So, gathered part by Yale and part by chance,
Our band of thirty made its pilgrimage to France. 
Starting with A, we have the Auchinclosses,
Quiet Hugh and Laurie, who his boss is.
Another doc's Stan Sneider from Miami;
Of radiation he's a well-known swami.
As for his misses, Marion's her handle.
The way this married pair holds hands — why, it's a scandal! 
By now it's obvious that dropping names
Is much this bard's most favorite of games.
To further exorcise this harmless mania
I'll bring on the quintet from Pennsylvania.
First, Madame Haight, known to the world as Polly,
With step so light and eye so bright and jolly.
The Harveys next I'll briefly dwell upon.
Their names are plain ones: Mary, hers — his, John.
One daughter's theirs and sons who number seven.
The offspring of a marriage made in heaven.
I'll bet, though, when those brats began to yell
The neighbors thought that marriage made in hell.
Smiling Lou Conyngham come next through the door,
Bringing Pennsy total up to four;
And finally … but hold! the panel sticks.
It's Jack! Did I say five? He makes it six. 
Here's to Peggy Elting, prettier than the law allows!
Enough to make those Sénanque monks forget theirs vows.
Jane Roche and Nancy Fry — ha, what a pair!
I lunched with them at L'Oustau de Baumanière.
The food? Trés bon! Mais oui! You bet!
But better the talk — so tête à tête à tête. 
Let's now salute the Weisners, Ros and Bernie.
When trouble comes, I hope she's my attorney.
She smiles, she jokes, she all good will extends;
Above all, she excels at making friends.
Once Bernie's taken off his tennis whites
They go to plays and concerts on most nights,
While through the years — and on this you can rely—
He's quietly made Ros a full-fledged Eli. 
Here's to Gert Gifford! She's one who'll never bore you;
And wherever you've traveled, she's been there before you.
Next comes the Moores — you know them, Gene and Edie.
Are they a well-matched couple? Yes indeedy!
Gene's flashing smile, his baritone so booming …
And straight-backed Edie, model of good grooming,
Blessed further, as I learned the other day,
With a most discerning taste for vin rosé. 
And now two more have come to join the party:
Madame Merriam, née Marjorie, known as Martie;
Also Madame Pollock — name-tag Madeleine,
They both come from Connecticut: Darien.
I swear their dual ambiance so excels
That time stands still. That's shipboard time: two belles. 
Here's to Dorothy Schmidt who found in old Marseille
A town one up on Tanafly, N.J.
Before my song moves on to other matters,
I gve you that dissimilar duo, the Willstatters.
Trudy's a mover — loves to shop and chat —
While Dick prefers to nurse a beer and squat. 
Let's turn now to my most particular pets.
Those ladies who are slaves to cigarettes.
The bus is stopped, so we may look or feed;
For them, it's more a chance to poke a weed.
Viceroys are the vice of Martha May;
Ann Marshman makes each day a Luckies day.
The other side's that, in either one, one never
Can find a single other fault whatever.
(Parenthesis: as a husband, truth to tell,
I think I handled that one rather well!) 
From A I've come to Y, for Yale and youth.
Embodying both, the Ormistons forsooth!
Though John's legs limp, his spirit's ever bright,
And lissome Jane fills up her space with light.
We pilgrims all agree: they never fail
To stand for all that's best in youth and Yale. 
Let's now give thanks for all the many pleasures
We tasted as we trod our daily measures.
The weather first — it's really been parfait:
Le ciel si bleu, l'air pur, le beau soleil!
Merci pour Aix, pour Aries, pour Avignon des Papes,
Pour le train ride in Marseille — ah, quell lagniappe!
La route Cézanne! La Montagne Ste. Victoire!
Les rues de Roussillon et Gordes! Le Pont du Gard!
Ah, la Provence! Si douce! Aussi si belle!
It makes me want to sing out a cappella
With thanks for all her wines — rouge, blanc, rosé —
Mais sûrtout mercy pour Le Pigonnet;
Her gardens, her Bernard, her cozy nooks
For drinks or cards or talks, her air deluxe.
"No place like home," they say — but I say, "Well,
Few homes I know compare to this hotel." 
Now let me ask you all to kiss the air
To our chauffeur, le formidable Jean-Pierre.
Dans un moment I"ll ask for your applause
For one who's made our stay her constant cause.
And happy it's been — so near to the euphoric
We'll simply overlook how high-caloric.
Yet save for our bellies, there's been little to extend us,
For Moira Black so deftly mother-henned us. 
The moment now has come to thank Françoise.
Her thoughtfulness, her knowledge and her poise.
The width and breadth and depth of information
She gave us made each day a revelation.
Spiced by her English-French and French-English gymnastics
Not to mention her enthusiastics:
"So fabulous!" "Magnificent!" "Unreal!"
She also somehow manages to deal
With Good King René et Phillippe the Fair
In terms that make one think that she'd been there.
The Gothic, Romanesque, the arch that's broken…
On these and so much else she's so well-spoken
That as a guide one can't imagine betters.
So, dear Françoise, we're all of us your debtors. 
I'm almost done. I've saved the best for last:
A man whose sense of present and of past
We all salute … and meanwhile bless the day
La France sent us that chèrest maître, Georges May.
He speaks to us with learning served with flair.
Serious of course but also debonair.
Some scholars hold the creed that what you know
Is all that counts. This scholar proves that isn't so
But that within the education biz
What counts more than what one knows is what one is.
So let us all, his students, now extend
Our thanks to Georges: our teacher, mentor, friend! 
As for your bard, excuse his cockeyed rhymes
And meter too — at worst they're minor crimes.
In all of this, the one thing I intend
Is to amuse and never to offend;
And thus this doggerel poet makes his end.

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