Tuesday, June 13, 2023


Back in 1642, a poet by the name of Richard Lovelace penned a work called “To Althea, From Prison”. Lovelace wrote the poem while imprisoned in Gatehouse Prison adjoining Westminster Abbey due to his effort to have the Clergy Act 1640 annulled. Lovelace is best remembered for 2 lines from the final stanza of the poem:
“Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage”

The lines mean that it takes more than physical limits to imprison a person's mind or soul. Stone walls and iron bars may prevent a person from moving freely in their body, but if they can still love freely whoever they want, and have free emotions and let their thoughts fly free, then in heart, mind and soul - they are free. the poet seems to believe that these latter freedoms are more important.

That would probably be of great comfort to inmates at Long Bay and Silverwater.

I mention all of this because I came across the lines quoted in another poem:

A Home Song

by Henry van Dyke

I turned an ancient poet's book,
And found upon the page:
"Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage."
Yes, that is true, and something more:
You'll find, where'er you roam,
That marble floors and gilded walls
Can never make a home.
But every house where Love abides,
And Friendship is the guest,
Is surely home, and home, sweet home,
For there the heart can rest.

It seems to me that van Dyke’s words –
That marble floors and gilded walls
Can never make a home
make more sense than iron bars and stone walls not making a prison.

By the way, Henry van Dyke (1852 – 1933) was an American author, educator, diplomat, and Presbyterian clergyman.

One of van Dyke's best-known poems is titled "Time Is". The second section of this poem was read at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales:

Time is
Too slow for those who Wait,
Too swift for those who Fear,
Too long for those who Grieve,
Too short for those who Rejoice,
But for those who Love,
Time is not.

The poem is also known as "For Katrina's Sundial" because it was composed to be an inscription on a sundial in the garden of an estate owned by his friends Spencer and Katrina Trask.

The above is the original poem; some versions have "Eternity" in place of "not."

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