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Featured Poem: Overheard on a Saltmarsh by Harold Monro

October 19, 2009
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I read this poem last week at care home for people suffering with dementia and we had a wonderful discussion from it. One lady picked up on the idea of greed immediately and even related it to her own feelings of desire for things that dont belong to her, as well as the feeling of owning something precious.

It is a comfort in a way. You can look at it and say, Its mine. Its mine. There is comfort in that.

Another lady went on to relate it to the big things she has wanted in her life:

A partner a really good looking fellow. And a nice place to come back to at the end of the day, to call home.

I was quite shocked to get all of that from a poem about a fight between a nymph and a goblin!

Overheard on a Saltmarsh

Nymph, nymph, what are your beads?

Green glass, goblin. Why do you stare at them?

Give them me.

No.

Give them me. Give them me.

No.

Then I will howl all night in the reeds,

Lie in the mud and howl for them.

Goblin, why do you love them so?

They are better than stars or water,

Better than voices of winds that sing,

Better than any man’s fair daughter,

Your green glass beads on a silver ring.

Hush, I stole them out of the moon.

Give me your beads, I want them.

No.

I will howl in the deep lagoon

For your green glass beads, I love them so.

Give them me. Give them.

No.

- Harold Monro (1879 – 1932)

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. Kath Baker permalink
    September 26, 2010 12:15 pm

    Dear Jen,

    My mother used to recite this poem to us when we were children and it always fascinated me. My gran had a necklace of glass beads, green and black with streaks of gold, that I was convinced were the nymph’s beads and that I always begged to get out from her dressing table drawer, to feel how cold and icy they were. I never wear them without thinking of this poem and I’ve been looking for the full words from it for years, because I could only remember fragments. Thank you.

  2. Pam permalink
    October 7, 2010 6:32 am

    I’m teaching this poem to Hong Kong children for a speech festival at the moment. It’s very old fashioned, and I don’t think it’s suitable for ESL speakers (I didnt choose the poem!)
    But it’s fascinating to see how the poem is interpreted online.

  3. Margaret Elliott permalink
    January 26, 2011 9:31 pm

    My Mother also used to recite this poem to me as a child, and I still have a mental image of the Goblin pleading and threatening for the beads. Like Kath Baker I only remembered fragments until I mentioned it to an elderly aunt and she knew the author straight away.
    Even now if I see a green glass necklace or trinket it reminds me of this poem and I wonder what happened after the nymph said no!

  4. Kristena permalink
    February 10, 2011 2:12 pm

    I remember reading this poem with my mother when I was a little girl. I am surprised that I still know all the words. Thank you for posting such a treasure.

  5. Moh permalink
    June 6, 2011 10:45 pm

    This is my favourite poem, and probably the first one that took my fancy.

    It was in a text book in the school curriculum in England in the late 70′s /80′s
    I was fascinated by the goblin and his relentlessness.
    I always relate it to J R R Tolkien, probably linking it with Gollums desire for the ring.
    I also find that there’s machismo tension akin to that of the early days of a relationship and ‘stealing’ that first kiss or other favours from a resolute and yet teasing maiden.
    I enjoyed all the comments.

    Thank you for featuring this poem.

  6. May 20, 2012 9:42 pm

    I recited this poem when I was at school, aged about 12. I was commended by our guest, Lord Wavell, and our Spanish master always, always said “No” to me when he passed me in the corridor. I was coached a lot by my english teacher but it was me who took the credit. Not fair really. I have been searching it for years but only the magic of google has found it for me.

  7. February 12, 2013 2:56 pm

    Reblogged this on Words for Wellbeing and commented:
    Overheard on a Saltmarsh by Harold Monro can be such fun to read aloud …

  8. September 2, 2013 4:53 am

    I first read this in a book titled “Hallowe’en”, by Robert Haven Schauffler, published in the late 40′s. It was a collection of poems, stories, plays, traditions and party suggestions for the holiday. I’m surprised but pleased to find how many places it can be found now.

  9. Susan in Texas permalink
    December 29, 2013 8:22 pm

    I remember reading this poem in the World Book Encyclopaedia (also, included a set of children’s books). This was in the early 60′s. The imagery was so vivid and evoked a longing to find a necklace of green-glass beads. To this day, I remember the feeling of delight in reading this poem.

  10. kbt56@hotmail.co.uk permalink
    March 13, 2014 3:24 pm

    Was reminiscing with my sister today and we talked of when we were children 50 plus years ago an of our dear mom she would recite this poem to us . When she was a child she won a poem recital with this very poem and she would often recite this to us in the way she said it all those years ago. It never fails to bring us happy happy memories

  11. Margaret Bradley permalink
    March 25, 2014 4:34 pm

    Nearly 60 years ago my mother used to recite this poem to my sister and I. We used to draw our bedclothes up to our noses and she would use a whispery voice. We were thrilled and scared all at the same time. We never tired of hearing it.

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