Tag Archives: spitualism


LilacI sometimes like to imagine that I am teaching a class in English literature or poetry and walk into class with something like what is in the photograph at the right.  I don’t say much to the students but just walk up to my desk and place it in the middle of the desk.  If one is familiar with plants of the temperate zone, one might recognize that plant part as the mature inflorescence of lilac flowers.  These are the seed pods of lilac flowers that bloomed, heavy scented in billows of lavender, blue, purple, or white blossoms unrivaled for attention in the spring but now, in the fall, are almost unnoticed by passersby.

All I would say to the students is, “Write a poem about this.”  There would be a lot of rumbling amongst the students, and a few questions like “What is it.”, “I can’t do that!”, to which I would respond, “It’s a lilac flower, you can do it.”  Then I would just say, “You’ve got 15 minutes.”  Oh, probably some students would have 3 or four lines about lilacs but most would still be bruising their brain at the end of 15 minutes.  Then, I would smugly provide each student a copy of the poem that Patience Worth wrote about browned lilacs and say, “This is what she did!”

(Before you read the following poem by Patience Worth try to write one of your own.  You can take as long as you like.)



I dinna believe I would have recalled
When the lilacs had browned,
For their purple plumes had nodded
Blithesomely upon the sunlit airs.
I dinna believe I would have recalled them so.
But the sun had stood high,
And the little fleece-clouds had played
At skipping o’er the gold-sprayed sky;
And the birds had skimmed the heights
Calling their music shrill, high upon the vasty ways,
And the brook was chattering beside,
Telling, telling of the mountain’s gab.

And I was youthed, and stepped the pathways
Joy-sped, listening to the bird’s songs,
Knowing the nodding of the lilac plumes,
Taking in their perfume, plucking them
To deck my love which pulsed in youthfulness.

Ah me, but that day hath gone,
And the skies are grey, and the clouds
Have wearied, sinking low to rest
Upon the earth’s rim.  And I—Ah,
I too am weary.  No longer
Doth Youth send her wine for my supping—
And the lilacs are bare, bare, but their spears
Stand brown against a silver sky,
Like old script writ of some older day!

Oh, I dinna believe that I
Would have recalled the lilacs so!

Well, I don’t know about you, but I would have to labor over a poem like this.  It’s not only the creativity and beautiful use of words but the thought that had to be there first before the words could come. Those who believe that Pearl Curran created this poem out of her subconscious mind need to remember that this poem, like all the other writing of Patience Worth was given sometimes letter by letter or word by word as fast as it could be written down by the stenographer.  Fifteen minutes may have been more than enough time for delivery. There was no hesitation, no fumbling for the perfect word, no writing and rewriting, no re-arranging lines as is often done by poets as their subconscious mind provides them thoughts to write down.  It’s as if the poem had already been composed and Patience Worth (or Pearl Curran) was just reciting it for her listeners. I ask you, who of you would not be proud to have written this poem?

Dr. Walter Franklin Prince in his investigation of the Patience Worth case wrote:

“Suppose that any living poet you can name were to have more than thirty subjects fired at him one after another in a single evening, and attempt to improvise, with the result that he orally delivered 32 short poems and 7 more or less witty and aphoristic remarks, the whole containing 1360 words!  Is there one who would dare to be put to the test?  Edgar Lee Masters, had listened to the improvisation of a number of poems by Patience Worth on subjects given, he was asked if he knew of any writer who could do the like, and replied, “There is but one answer to that question, it simply cannot be done.”

Almost universally the poets employ time and reflection and pains upon their work, and after the first draft of a set of verses is made,  go over it and revise,  some of them repeatedly. . . . .This evening’s work, 32 brief poems, and 7 other utterances, each started a few seconds after the subject was given by some one of the company present, contains no alteration either at the time or subsequently, but is here given as Patience Worth dictated and her words were taken down.”

Well, Dr. Prince may say this but we all know that Pearl Curran and other editors did smooth out the rough spots of some of the writing of Patience Worth prior to publishing.  (See “Typos”.)



I would like to start providing an assortment of poems by Patience Worth.  Perhaps it is appropriate to start the recitation with poems of love and friendship.  The following poems by Patience Worth are some of my favorites.  I hope you will like them too.




Can I then hope to tear from out my heart the song ‘twould tell thee?
Were I to sing to the woodland, ‘twould be thy song.
Or should I pipe of happy days when thou wert absent from my life,
Thoud’st creep within the singing and every note be thine.

Or should I make a song unto my saddest season,
Thou still would’st sing, e’en through my sorrowing.
Thou who art but the essence of my song’s wine
Hast blossomed long before, within its very grape,
And ripened with my season’s heat and cold.
Who then denies that from my first voiced crooning,
Thou hast been the vibrant chord?




The following poem was untitled as were all of her poems when delivered but were usually given titles by those close to Pearl Curran, including Emily Hutchings, John Curran, Casper Yost and others.  This poem was a personal poem dictated for Herman Behr a devoted friend and benefactor of Pearl Curran. After John Curran died on June 1, 1922, Herman Behr provided Pearl Curran and her two girls a stipend of $400 per month  for a number of years.  Herman Behr published a collection of poems of Patience Worth titled Light From Beyond  in 1923.  He also translated them into German.  Max Behr, a son of Herman Behr, graduate of Yale University and renown California architect of golf courses and editor and writer for Golf Illustrated & Outdoor America, assisted Pearl Curran after she moved to Los Angeles in 1930.  He participated in sessions with Patience Worth and edited some of her work.  After Pearl Curran died in 1937 Max Behr married Pearl’s adopted daughter Patience “Wee” who had been divorced from Gerald Peters with whom she had one child named “Hope”.  Max Behr also cared for Pearl’s biological daughter, Eileen Curran who joined Max and Patience Wee in his home in Los Angeles County.  Max Behr was 33 years older than Patience “Wee” when he married her in 1939.  Patience “Wee” died in an alcoholic stuper on November 23, 1943 in Los Angeles, six years after Pearl Curran. Eileen Curran married three times  and died in 1982 in New Orleans, Louisana.  Max Behr  had two grown daughters when he married Patience “Wee”; Lisbeth, born in 1906 and Evelyn born in 1908.  His first wife Evelyn Baker Schely died in 1919.  Max Behr died in 1955.

Although there are some who write negatively about Max Behr and his relationship with Pearl Curran and her girls, I think he is grossly maligned in that he assumed a large responsibility when, as an older man with two grown children,  he took on the care (and treatment) of Patience “Wee” and Eileen after their mother died.   Reportedly, the teen-age Eileen thought that Max was a “generous but domineering man” and that he “thought he was Christ.”

I think he had all that he could handle to keep these two young spoiled girls in bounds.

Eileen Curran



What magic is thine, beloved?
Lo, had the day become a worn thing
And the vessels of office trinkets
Of memory.  What magic is thine?
Beneath the spell of thy voice have I
Walked upon the sands of morning
Which embrace Day, and found new toys
Awaiting me, new music in the waters,
New songs in the air, new peace
In the quietude, new simplicity
In confusion.  Each morrow is exultant
And I expectant.  I am comrade
With all days, no longer woeful
O’er yesterdays or fretful o’er tomorrows
Save in anticipation of new joys!

What magic is thine, beloved?
It is as though I had come fresh
From the conflict with bloody head,
With bruised hands and heavy feet,
With mine armour oppressing me—
It is as though I had come to thy side,
And felt thy gentle touch upon my brow,
Watched thy slender hands unthong
My coat of mail, and weary,
Dropped my head upon thy breast, secure
In the serenity of thy voice.

One of my favorites, the one which was read as part of my marriage ceremony is the following poem:



Beloved, I do not believe that I
Might know God’s mercy so intimately,
Save that I had known—thee!
I do not believe that my soul
Might have been so deep, so pit-like deep,
Had I not known and contained—thee!

Beloved, I might not hope—
Had I not heard thy pledge!
Nor could I have believed,
Save that I had believed in thee!
I could not believe that I
Might comprehend eternity,
Save that I had known thy limitless love!
Surely, Thou art the symbol of my New Day—
Wherein I might read
The record of my eternity!