Thursday, March 17, 2022

The Forlorn Sea


The Forlorn Sea

Our Princess married
A fairy King,
It was a sensational

Now they live in a palace
Of porphyry,
Far, far away
By the fòrlorn sea.

Sometimes people visit them,
Last week they invited me;
That is how I can tell you
They live by a fòrlorn sea.

(They said: Here's a magic carpet,
Come on this,
And when you arrive
We will give you a big kiss.)

I play in the palace garden,
I climb the sycamore tree,
Sometimes I swim
In the fòrlorn sea.

The King and the Princess are shadowy,
Yet beautiful
They are waited on by white cats,
Who are dutiful.

It is like a dream
When they kiss and cuddle me,
But I like it, I like it,
I do not wish to break free.

So I eat all they give me
Because I have read
If you eat fairy food
You will never wake up in your own bed,

But will go on living,
As has happened to me,
Far, far away
By a fòrlorn sea.

-Stevie Smith

Stevie Smith (1902-1971) is a favorite of mine, especially the poetry. Her sketches (as above) are fun, too.

Why is there a grave accent over the o in 'the fòrlorn sea?' Who knows? But it works somehow...


  1. At a guess, it's a length or stress sign rather than a grave accent.

    1. Good thought! Maybe so. I was taking it as just evocative. I pronounce forlorn nearly as a spondee (American) probably the way she wants it pronounced, but acc to Forvo, a Brit puts more emphasis on the second syllable, which makes sense in reading Keats, e.g.: 'in fairy lands forlorn.'

    2. or - more Keats - "Forlorn! the very word is like a bell." which really stresses the second syllable.
      It's unusual in that most two-syllable words have the stress on the first syllable, where - in England, at least - "forlorn" emphasises the second. I wondered about the accent though - Hopkins used an acute accent to show stress, but a grave accent is often used in words ending --ed which are usually pronounced as one syllable - "ducked" versus "duckèd" or "The Blessèd Damozel" (who would care about "The Blessed Damozel"?), so it probably could have the same effect.

    3. I'm sure you're right she's thinking of something like blessèd. In that case the grave gives it a sound without making actually an accented syllable. She wants to give it weight without making it the accented syllable. I pronounce forlorn with the slightest of accents on the second syllable--and the Forvo American example sounds pretty much the same as I do, so I'm not just weird... ;-)--and that's probably what she wants.