A couple months back my column had a poem in praise of Derry. Since then I’ve heard from friends in Londonderry that their town is also worthy of poetical extolling. Going through my files I found a poem by Moses Shirley Gage that should perfectly suit the bill.
Moses Gage Shirley (1865-1916) lived his entire life with his parents in a smallish home on Shirley Hill in Goffstown. He was educated in the town’s one-room school and seems to have never married or to have ever held a paying job. From the age of 12 he devoted his entire life to poetry. Two books of his poems were published and his verses frequently appeared in literary magazines or as hymns. One critic in 1888 called Gage’s poems “as pure and sweet as the breeze which fan his native hills or haunt the picturesque mountains above his eastern home.”
The poem that follows was written especially for the Derry News in 1898 and is titled “The Girls of Londonderry”:
Fair is the dawn of early spring
When peach and plum and cherry
Have blossomed out, but fairer still
The girls of Londonderry.
Their eyes are like the banding skies,
Each happy face adorning;
Soft as the shades of eventide,
Bright as the gates of morning.
Their lips, what poet can describe
In language sweetly flowing
They remind me of the maple buds
That in the woods are blowing.
Their hearts we know of none more true
To which we homage render
As full of love and consistency,
As faithful and as tender.
They have no artifice or guile
What ever be their station,
And each with grace, might rule as queen
Or mistress of a nation.
Their step is lithesome as the fawns.
We know of none more merry.
Long may they live and sweetly shine