While thousands of people were Rocking on the Range last Saturday morning, I was working myself up into a frenzy of a very different kind. I was next door at the Archives/Library, admiring Dutch gold and Berlin-work harps.
The Harp of Ten Strings was first on my paging list. As I read an introductory page of this poem by Josephine Page-Wright, I learned that it was based not only on Psalm 33:2 (“Praise the Lord with harp; sing unto Him with psaltery and an instrument of ten strings), but also on Galatians V: 22-23 (“But the fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Long Suffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, and Temperance”). My Rare Book School-trained eye for 19th-century publishers’ bookbindings was attracted to the “tiny harp of finest gold” on the cover that was stamped, along with the title, in Dutch gold on dark green cloth. Looking at the poster-style bookbinding design, I guessed correctly that the book was published around 1897.
Inside, on the book’s deckle-edged, chain- and laid-lined pages, each section of the poem focused on a different string of a special harp, representing each “fruit of the Spirit.” In the section about love – represented by the first string – I read this verse:
“ ‘Twas after all, a very easy thing,
A pleasant thing, to play upon the harp.
I was regretful that so many days
Had slipped away ere I had learned this truth.”
Now that I’ve progressed to “Planxty George Brabazon” and “The Grenadier and the Lady” in my practice sessions, it is indeed a very pleasant thing to play upon the harp!
The second item on my paging list was a Berlin-work bookmark with a harp design, dating from 1850 to 1875. It was even niftier than what I had imagined. The harp was worked in wool on perforated paper and sewn on a blue-and-white striped silk ribbon. I made my own version of it when I got home.
One more harp-related archival find is on my paging list, but I’ll see it later, when it returns from being on loan. I think it will rival the bookmark in neatness because it belongs to a doll. Stay tuned!