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[Typescript Poem] “My Own Town”

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Mary Webb. “My Own Town.” “Spring Cottage. / Lyth Hill / Shrewsbury” in pencil, on verso of second leaf. Typescript poem, two leaves, 10″ x 8″, white wove paper loosely stitched together (with white thread) at upper-left corner. Forty-three lines, minor ink corrections and one typescript correction. Signed “Mary Webb” at bottom of second leaf. Webb loved her native Shropshire and its capital town, Shrewsbury, but the meanness and pettiness of people also upset her. “My Own Town” shows Webb’s eager recognition of the goodness of her townsfolk, but also acknowledges their unkindness: “While up and down the chalice goes, / Made of a sapphire, filled to the brim / With God. I have seen them walk like kings / Pondering on majestic things. / And where the gossip gables lean / Chatting, I’ve met with faces mean / With meanness past all grace or cure.” Webb (always self-conscious of her excessive thinness, goiter, and protrusion of the eyes, all the result of Graves’ disease) found in her writing a way of reaching out to humanity with her compassionate yet shy spirit: “Shall stand the town that I have made / With golden house and silver steeple / And a strange, uplifted people, / Who in their charmed streets shall go, / Hushed with a tremendous woe / And a joy as deep and vast / As shadows that the mountain cast.”