The bronze lady in the hat stands in
Frozen motion at the top of town
Diminutive but stern she looks left
But there are no horses bearing down
Her wonder at the quiet of the street
And the clean appearance of the stone
No mud and straw beneath her feet
Where she is bound in bronze forever.
Jane what have you in your grasp?
Does your book speak of Pride and Prejudice
Or is it Sensibility you clasp
Tight under your arm in the breeze?
This is your local town of Basingstoke
Where you sometimes visited to dance
And met with distinguished country folk
To be seen but also mark their ways
So you could write of insights to the lives
Of all the landed gentry roundabout
Their sons, their daughters and their wives
As though in fiction but so near to truth.
Who’d have thought two centuries later
You would reappear among these streets
A heroine, no female writer greater
And stare at all of us who admire you.
Who knows what observations you are making
Of the people as they talk and walk and pass
Are you creating fiction and note-taking
For a novel that is new but bound in bronze?
In July 2017, a bronze statue of Jane Austen by sculptor Adam Roud, was unveiled in the town square in Basingstoke to mark two hundred years since her death. Jane Austen, lived in Steventon, a village just out of Basingstoke. The sculpture is a beautiful piece and it looks to me as if she is about to cross the road. Of course now the Top of the Town is all pedestrianised. It is off the beaten track of the main shopping centre but the local pub and some of buildings still remain, although the ground level frontages look modern now. But as with so many places in the UK, if you look above these, you can see the architecture of the past. The church at Steventon is still there, a pretty little place inside and some of the family are buried in the graveyard, however their original house is no longer there. Jane later moved with her family to Chawton and it is there you can visit the museum about her life.
Pride and Prejudice has to be one of my favourite books now, although I did not appreciate it when I had to study it at school. It is so full of biting humour and caricatures of type. As a parson’s daughter, Jane must have met with many different people and her books demonstrate this.
Words and photo copyright Englepip©