Archive for October 8th, 2020

Thursday, 8 October 2020

The Photograph Album by John Joseph Meagher Thompson

Smile on them gently. These are the family ghosts,
Who once were persons: now they are stuck down flat.
They all were lovers of pies, puddings, and roasts.
Not one of them ever went out without a hat.

Rococo gardens dangling in blossomy loops
And canvas seas and improbable plants in pots
Incongruously surround these stony groups
Of maids and mashers and patriarchs and tots.

Look how they stand at bay, how solid and square,
Brushed and buttoned and with their heads held high,
Hands and feet disposed with a modish care,
Stricken by the callow camera’s gorgon eye.

What of this statuesque unbending wife?
This frigid frowning father? None will guess
That she was sprightly and lovable all her life.
And he had a name for fervor and friendliness.

What of this whiskered uncle, grave and grim?
This aunt, forbiddingly braced and booted and bodiced?
Gambling, drubbing, and drink were the ruin of him.
She, it is said, was scandalously immodest.

None of it shows. Locked up in stillness, made
As blank as waxworks and as stiff as wood,
Their foxed and yellowing effigies, as they fade,
Betray no sparkle of laughter or lustihood.

A whirr and a click released them, years ago,
From the chill gripe of momentary grimaces;
The photographer ceased his devilish to-do;
They sprang to life, resumed their ordinary faces,

And took their hats, and went about their tasks,
Until the tomb received them, six-foot deep.
All that the instant peephole caught was masks.
Fold them away, and leave them to their sleep.


From: Thompson, John, “The Photograph Album” in The Bulletin, Volume 79 Number 4103 (1 October 1958), p. 32.

Date: 1958

By: John Joseph Meagher Thompson (1907-1968)