Mary Gunter 1811
Mary’s "English Garden" with its opulent border has always amazed and fascinated me. She edged a large house, a verse and an alphabet with a bold sweep and a number of different flowers. I think the two garden benches are really idyllic. They invite you to relax and to take a view of the garden, because there are roses in buds, carnations and tulips bloom at the same time as pansies - in the two impressive planters behind the benches as well. You only need to open the garden door and you're right in the middle.
Marys sampler has much in common with the early samplers from Norwich:
- the pre-drawn, very lush floral border,
- different types of stitches,
- the educative verse,
- the alphabet,
- the motifs (clipped trees, lion, birds) and
- the material - silk on wool.
“Written on the sand on the sea shore” (This is the title, and the poet seems to be talking to the message in the sand itself, a figure of speech called apostrophe.)
Thou emblem of the youthful breast! (Emblem is like symbol. This message in the sand is a symbol of young people in a way.)
Thoughts fair or foul may be imprest [impressed] On thy smooth face; (As with a young person’s mind, both good and bad thoughts can appear in the message on the sand.)
but not like thee Can Youths once tainted mind be free nor foul; (Unlike the message, which can be wiped clean, the person with foul thoughts cannot be cleansed.)
be fair, with the next tide The mind’s pollution must abide (The tide will wipe the message on the sand clean but cannot clean a person’s mind, so the bad thoughts – the pollution – will remain.)
Alas! If that pure shrine you stain Seas cannot wash it white again: (The poet seems to be speaking to a new audience: those that teach young people. The poet is warning these teachers to avoid staining the minds of young people with bad thoughts – especially immoral thoughts – because the sea cannot purify the mind the way it purifies the sand.)
Guardians of Youth, then, O! take care The impressions that you give be fair. (The poet again speaks to guardians of young people – teachers, parents, or whoever they might be – warning them to provide fair, or good, impressions to the youngsters under their care so as to provide a model for good, moral thinking and the avoidance of foul, immoral thoughts.)
Special thanks go to the staff of the City of Bristol Museum & Art Gallery who could provide a colour photo of the sampler after years of effort (inventory number: N5871) and to Paul Hertzog for his explanations to the verse.
Crosses: 332 x 409
Size: 47 x 58 cm
Stitches: Cross stitch, Algerian eyelet