Before my Spring

(notes by Philip Holberton)


This poem headed the story “Without Benefit of Clergy” which first appeared in Macmillan’s Magazine for June 1890 and in Harper’s Weekly on 7 and 14 June the same year. It was collected in The Courting of Dinah Shadd and Other Stories (1890) and Mine Own People in 1891 and Life’s Handicap the same year. (See ORG, Volume 2, p. 932 for various unauthorised editions.)

The poem

These lines are a lament for the doomed love in the story. John Holden has known love and fatherhood and then bereavement too early in his life: ‘I saw the sunset ere men saw the day’. And because he loved across racial and religious barriers both his happiness and now his grief have to be kept hidden: in Life’s Handicap but not when collected this verse is titled “Bitter Waters”.
Jan Montefiore notes: This reads as if influenced by Chideock Tichborne’s elegy for himself: [J.M.]

‘My prime of youth is but a frost of cares… And now I live, and now my life is done’.



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