Thomas Gotch Alleluia 1896
Thomas Gotch 'Alleluia'  1896

Thank Heaven for Little Girls

Sylvia Kantaris


Six little girls in front like stained-glass
saints in stiff Pre-Raphaelite brocade
have lost their place already in the two-text.
A budding Thomasina on the far left
entertains grave doubts about the words.
The youngest needs to be excused in media res.

You'd think the bigger girls in bulging smocks
would make a point of looking jubilant
but two (extreme left) find the text abhorrent.
I suspect the one who didn’t even bother
to change out of her plain old burnt sienna
of chanting 'Rhubarb, rhubarb' sotto voce. Alleluia.

It's no wonder that the dark girl with the sad face
(right) seems confused about her function here -
posed for a Pietà, out of context -
unlike the elevated centerpiece,
ecstatic in the role of Christ. Her gender
gives a double edge of satire to the picture.

She is the only one of age who isn't pregnant yet,
though clothed in green and gold like Mother Earth
amongst these fidgety disciples who were not designed
to worship either gods or goddesses.
Alleluia therefore, and thank Heaven that most girls
make short shrift of apostolic attitudes.

Thomas Cooper Gotch The Child Enthroned 1894
Thomas Cooper Gotch 'The Child Enthroned' 1894

Sylvia Kantaris is a former French tutor at Queensland University and until recently an Open University tutor, is now occupied mainly with writing and related teaching and performing activities. She lives in Cornwall. Her recent books of poetry include The Sea at the Door (Secker & Warburg, 1985), The Air Mines of Mistila (co-author Philip Gross, Bloodaxe, 1988) New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 1989) Lad's Love (Bloodaxe, 1992)

Thomas Gotch Girl in a Cornish Garden 1887
Thomas Gotch 'Girl in a Cornish Garden' 1887