This is a poem I wrote when I was about 15 years old, based on Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest (A Trivial Comedy for Serious People)’.
Miss Prism is lost in her thoughts again.
She’s making her frequent escape
To a land of fiction; and with conviction
She relishes each letter’s shape.
She smiles as her words bring life to the man
Wearing a golden cape;
Her oeuvre: a three-volume novel –
As sweetly made as flowers!
The large clock boomed; it had consumed
All her unoccupied hours…
But oh, the fret, should she forget
In the corner, a baby cowers.
To make sure it is not forgotten,
The baby mewls and cries.
Swiftly then, she puts down her pen
And looks up in anguished surprise.
Miss Prism leaves her creation, though still
Inspiration glitters her eyes.
I regret I have yet to inform you
Of who Miss Prism is:
House-servant to Lord Bracknell,
And indeed, quite a favourite of his.
That was until the house stood still
In dread, on a morn such as this.
Miss Prism hurries to the nursery
And the musty smell makes her gag.
She opens her wardrobe and retrieves
A somewhat capacious hand-bag.
She works at the pace of an athletic race
To appease Lady Bracknell (old hag!).
The baby’s cries grow louder still;
She envelopes it in her embrace…
Like a frightened cat, scurries this way and that,
And all about the place.
Quickly, she picks up her manuscripts
And an inkpot and pen – just in case.
The baby is puzzled to see the nanny
Disappear out of his sight.
A few moments later, a perambulator
Emerges, all cream and white.
She tenderly places the baby boy
Inside, and wraps him up tight:
For although the sun glints above the trees,
The morning is brisk and cold.
Through the doorway wide, they venture outside –
About ten o’clock, so I’m told –
Just Miss Prism, the Bracknells’ housemaid,
And a baby, seven months old.
‘Twas custom to partake of a morning walk
And leave other worries behind
For an hour or so; but you really must know
Miss Prism had thoughts on her mind,
Of a gentleman, soon to be cleric,
Who was thoughtful and pleasant and kind.
They had been childhood companions
(Though he was older than she)
But then their careers had engrossed them
And they parted company.
But when all seemed lost, their paths had crossed,
As luck would have it be!
Frederick Chasuble had come to call
On the morning of Tuesday last.
They’d arranged to be at Platform Three
At eleven – or perhaps quarter past.
Not quite past youth, Miss Prism, in truth,
Had a heart full of hope that held fast.
They arrive at Victoria Station –
And Miss Prism feels short of air.
She stops in front of a window
To primp her cheeks and hair.
Tensely she sighs, and ventures inside,
Wondering, would he be there?
The baby snuffles quite faintly
As Miss Prism looks fretfully around.
She is searching for – a golden cape?
Yet all dressed in black he is found.
So sudden a meeting, so pleasant a greeting,
His face warm and kind and round.
‘Miss Prism!’ he utters, removing his hat.
‘I hoped that you would be here.’
With some unease, he blinks and sees
The infant, so small, so dear.
‘A baby!’ he cries, quite panicked inside.
‘You are, then… married, I fear?’
‘Oh no! I am merely his nanny.’
She blushes, both flattered and shy.
Her voice pitches higher: ‘If you so desire,
You may hold him, for he will not cry.’
So the soon-to-be priest bends down on his knees
To the lift the small cherub up high.
Miss Prism is lost in her thoughts again.
She watches the slumbering child
In the arms of the cleric, and almost hysteric –
Inspiration is making her wild –
How she yearns, once again, to pick up her pen,
And describe her heroine beguiled…
Rev’rend Chasuble lost in the little one’s dreams;
His spirit somehow feels bruised.
Then with a jerk, Miss Prism thinks: ‘Work!’
And says, ‘Pray, I must be excused.’
She retrieves the infant from his arms,
Leaving him somewhat bemused.
No longer a mystery, the rest is history!
Miss Prism moves quick as she dare.
In abstraction then, places paper and pen
In the perambulator with care.
Oh, woe that she picks up the handbag
And places the baby there.
Miss Prism is lost in her thoughts again,
Engulfed in her ruminations.
The ghosts of the past that will last and last
Come to visit without hesitation.
Her thoughts ricochet round; meanwhile, baby is found
In the cloakroom of Victoria Station!
A gentleman mistook the bag for his own
And had found the abandoned child.
He had none of his own, so he took the babe home,
And his housekeeper nearly went wild.
‘A baby?’ she drawled. ‘What shall he be called?’
The man simply looked up, and smiled.