Skip to main content

#0073: Willa Cather to Dorothy Canfield, July 6, 1902

More about this letter…
Plain view:

Guide to Reading Letter Transcriptions

Some of these features are only visible when "plain text" is off.

Textual Feature Appearance
passage deleted with a strikethrough mark deleted passage
passage deleted by overwritten added letters overwritten passage
passage added above the line passage with added text above
passage added on the line passage with added text inline
passage added in the margin passage with text added in margin
handwritten addition to a typewritten letter typed passage with added handwritten text
missing or unreadable text missing text noted with "[illegible]"
uncertain transcriptions word[?]
notes written by someone other than Willa Cather Note in another's hand
printed letterhead text printed text
text printed on postcards, envelopes, etc. printed text
text of date and place stamps stamped text
passage written by Cather on separate enclosure. written text
My Dearest Dorothy1;

Oh come you home of Sunday3 When Ludlow streets are still, and Ludlow bells are calling To farm and lane and mill,
Or come you home of Monday When Ludlow markets hums And Ludlow chimes are playing 'The Conquoring Hero comes.'

And they do play that tune every Monday in the year, and even now they are calling to farm and lane and mill. I've so much to tell you, Dorothy, that I've simply run away from the task of doing it; I never ran such a gauntlet of experiences. I draw a long slgh sigh of relief when I think I am to tell you them in Paris4.

From Liverpool5 we6 went directly to Chester7, lost our hearts to the place and stayed there five days. Then we coached fifty miles to Shrewsbury8 and there saw how "High the vanes of Shrewsbury gleam9 Islanded in Severn stream, The bridges, from the steepled crest, Cross the water east and west." We sat for two sunsets on the very spot where he10 must have done it and watched the red spee steeples in the clear green water which flows almost imperceptibly. And what do you think was going on in the wide meadows on the other shore? Why boys pere were playing foot-ball! "Is foot ball playing11 along the river shore?" Well I guess yes. And we went to Shrewsbury jail. You remember "They hang us now in Shrewsbury jail;12 The whistles blow so forlorn And trains all night groan on the rail To lads that die at morn." Of course they do, for the jail, which is the most gruw grewsome building 2 the hand of man ever made, is on a naked hill right over the switch yard and station, so you see "forlorn" was not put there to rhyme with "morn." Somehow it makes it all the greater to have it all true. When we got into Shropshire we threw away our guide books and have blindly followed the trail of the Shropshire Lad and he has lead us beside still waters and in green pastures13. Of course no one in Shropshire has his books or ever heard of him, but we telegraphed his publisher14 for his address and will see him in London15. I read the old files of the county paper to where most of the verses first came out16.

I dont know when we shall leave here. Ludlow Castle17 in itself is enough to hold me forever. It is one of the most perfect Norman-Elizabethan compounds in England18 and one of the least visited. The history of the 3 place and the magnitude of its interior together are enough to turn one daft. Is'nt it nice that Sir Philip Sidney19 grew up and first wrote in Ludlow Castle when his father20 held the Welsh border here for Elizabeth21? We have read those to two singing Shropshire Lads until our eyes are blinded and our reason distraught. They are not so unalike, either. Yesterday we bribed the keeper and climbed the circular stairway to the very top of the old Norman keep, and their there, over ivy, ivy, ivy, walls and walls, the ruined splendor of a thousand years, all on the topmost turrets, a thousand scarlet poppies flaunted their color and nodded and balanced themselves in the wind. When ages old remind me22 How much hath gone for naught, What wretched ghost remaineth Of all that flesh hath wrought; 4 Of love and song and warring, Of ádventure and play, Of art and comely building, Of faith and form and fray,
I'll mind the flowers of pleasure, Of short-lived youth and sleep That drank the sunny weather A-top of Ludlow keep.
I've been madly a-doing those poppies in every metre I know ever since I saw them, and all are alike unsuccessful. We are stopping at the most beautiful old hotel23 in the world, which was for three hundred years the over-flow house to the Castle, all black oak and diamond windows and that. We are going to bicycle to Wenlock Edge this afternoon, "Oh tarnish late on Wenlock edge"24 etc. I'll not quit Shropshire till I know every name he uses. They are just making hay now, too, and I think I might almost find Maurice behind the mows25 somewhere. I hope to find letters in London telling me when to meet you in Paris. To meet you at last, and tell you everything!

A light heart to you from me Willie