Melbourne poem 4: Sold

Sold is the last of my Found Works from the State Library of Victoria archive. It draws on advertisements from The Melbourne Argus, Friday 3rd Jul 1846 of items on general sale. When reading the newspaper I was struck both by the language of the adverts and the range of items many of which would rarely be seen on sale in 2022. The phrase ‘cosban shalloons’ grabbed my attention. Shalloons are a type of worsted (wool) that we don’t hear of today but were commonly used in Regency and Georgian times for clothing. See Caroline Warfield’s book for more on this. The phrase ‘bird-eye gimps’ remains a mystery to me so if anyone out there can enlighten me please get in touch. I love the sounds of many of the words and the moods they create: ‘soft white duck’, ‘isinglass’, and ‘thumb blue’. I’m also particularly intrigued by the ‘quiet broken in cows’ for sale. This could well be a misprint in the original Argus advertisement. Nevertheless it conjures an interesting image .

After I’d written the poem I was reminded of the poem Cargoes by John Masefield. Written in 1903, Masefield’s poem records the cargoes of three very different ships the ‘Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir’, the Stately Spanish galleon’ and the ‘Dirty British coaster’. Each has their own very distinct cargoes, some mystical and some very everyday, including ‘Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine’ and ‘Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays’. My Mum and my Auntie could both recite this poem by heart. They must have learned it at school as neither was particularly interested in poetry but the rhythms of Masefield’s poem evidently held them. 

The final stage of my Melbourne residency will include publication of a blog on the State Library of Victoria website about the writing workshop with young people from Melbourne and the poems I have written. There will also be a short YouTube film which will reflect on what I and other virtual writers in residence have learned during their Melbourne residencies. More of those items anon. Until then I hope you will enjoy reading Sold.

Photo by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash. Thanks Eric.

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