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In Attics and Archives

Volume 4-Issue 10, page 3

By Lara Maynard

Where Her Heart Longs to Be

Today has been the topic of many songs and poems ranging from the playful to the nostalgic. There is also the rather derogatory ditty "Dirty Old Torbaymen," which has us running around "as thick as flies" and badly in need of a bath and laundry. Some of you surely have copies of the more complementary verses pasted into scrapbooks. Perhaps you’ve even included some of Cyril Eustace’s poetry, which has been published here in the Oceanside Press regularly. You can add the following poem, which was published in the Atlantic Guardian in 1956, to your collection.

"Where the Green Hills of Torbay Run Down to the Sea"

I'm leaving my dear adopted shore

To visit the scenes of my girlhood

once more,

To see the deep glens where we picked with glee–

Where the green hills of Torbay run

down to the sea.

TO visit the beach where often we strayed,

Chased by the whitecaps of which

we were afraid,

Or seeking the lark’s nest in the flowery lee–

Where the green hills of Torbay run

down to the sea.

To visit the woods where we used

to pick "hurts"--

Get the juice of the berries all over

our shirts!

But we brought home full pails so

good to see–

Where the green hills of Torbay run

down to the sea.

The place where we used to play

jacks after school,

Or list for a splash of the trout in

the pool,

To sit ‘neath the shade of the cold

lilac tree–

Where the green hills of Torbay run

down to the sea.

And when I come from this life to

depart,

I hope that my soul will follow my

heart,

I hope that my heart will long to

be–

Where the green hills of Torbay run

down to the sea.

Esther McNeely

Randolph, Mass.

I haven’t asked around yet to find out who Esther McNeely actually is. I’d be happy to hear form any reader who knows. My guess is that McNeely is her married name, and, if the poem is accurate, she grew up in Torbay. At the time the poem was published she was living in Massachusetts, and apparently a little homesick. That’s certainly not uncommon among Newfoundlanders living away. In fact, the fairly well-known song "Hillsides of Torbay" is also from the point of view of a Torbay native living "across the foam" and thinking about his childhood community, remembering friends, the school and the convent with a liberal dose of sentimentality. I’m planning to go into more retail about that song in a future article.

Back to "Where the Green Hills of Torbay Run Down to the Sea." There’s certainly no shortage of nostalgia here-and no shortage of cliché either. I don’t remember ever hearing anybody say that they were going to the "glen" or seeking larks "in the flowery lee." I’m not even sure that we have larks. As far as that goes, our hills are only really green a couple of months out of the year. As I write they are decidedly white, frozen, larkless and flowerless. But, hey, it’s poetry, so there’s licence to idealize–especially if you’re writing out of homesickness. As they say, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder"– and the memory more selective.

Most of us have surely picked "hurts" (blueberries) and managed to stain our clothes in the process. I did find myself wishing, though, that instead of "shirts" Esther McNeely had rhymed "hurts" with "deserts." When I think blueberries I think cake and my favourite cobbler with cream. But that’s just my sweet tooth bossing my brain around!

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