Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Madness - Eve Langley

Eve Langley
 I saw a show last night in Brisbane which was an account of the life of Eve Langley. It was essentially a one woman show with actor/therapist Margie Brown-Ash in that role. It was confronting. I knew little about Eve Langley but suffice it to say she had a troubled and sometime brilliant life. Mother, schizophrenic, 7 years in a mental institution, a writer obsessed with Oscar Wilde and convinced of her own destiny - she went as far as changing her name by deed poll to Oscar Wilde in 1954.
Margie Brown-Ash
Eve Maria Langley was born Ethel Jane Langley in Forbes, New South Wales, Australia, on 1 September 1904, to Arthur Alexander Langley, a carpenter, and his wife, Myra Davidson. She left school at 14 and worked in various jobs before following her mother and younger sister Lilian May (known as June) to Paekakariki, New Zealand, in 1932. She worked as a journalist, a travelling bookseller, and then a gardener and housemaid at a hostel in Wanganui. Around 1934 she moved to Carterton, where she met Luigi Rinaldi, a car salesman. In 1935 at Auckland she had his child (who died shortly after birth). Afterwards she met an art student, Hilary Roy Clark, whom she married at the Registrar’s Office, Auckland, on 6 January 1937. Although 32, she gave her age as 28; he was 22. Five years and three children later he had his wife committed to a mental institution.She was released from the Institution in 1949, divorcing her husband in 1952. In 1956 she returned to Australia, travelled widely overseas and died in 1974 in a shack in the Katoomba bush in the Blue Mountains. She had become increasingly eccentric, wearing 'mannish clothes' and a white topi and always wore a knife in her belt. She died alone at home but her body was not found until about 3 weeks after her death. She was 70. A life of torment and talent ending so alone. How does that happen?

Margie Brown-Ash's portrayal of Eve was a harrowing 70 minutes, though not nearly as harrowing as Eve's reality.. I felt for her and also perhaps even more so for her young children.

This is one of her pieces. I've never read any of her work but I love this piece - so full of life and pain and yet a deceptively simple story beautifully written.

In a white gully among fungus red
Where serpent logs lay hissing at the air,
I found a kangaroo. Tall dewy,dead,
So like a woman, she lay silent there.
Her ivory hands, black-nailed, crossed on her breast
Her skin of sun and moon hues, fallen cold
her brown eyes lay like rivers come to rest
And death had made her black mouth harsh and old
Beside her in the ashes I sat deep
And mourned for her, but had no native song
To flatter death, while down the ploughlands steep
Dark young Camelli whistled loud and long,
'Love, liberty and Italy are all.'
Broad golden was his breast against the sun
I saw his wattle whip rise high and fall
Across the slim mare's flanks, and one by one
She drew the furrows after her as he
Flapped like a gull behind her, climbing high
Chanting his oaths and lashing soundingly,
While from the mare came once a blowing sigh.
The dew upon the kangaroo's white side
Had melted. Time was whirling high around,
Like the thin woomera, and from heaven wide
He, the bull-roarer, made continuous sound
Incarnate lay my country by my hand:
Her long hot days, bushfires, and speaking rains
Her mornings of opal and the copper band
Of smoke around the sunlight on the plains.
Globed in fire-bodies the meat- ants ran
to taste her flesh and linked us as we lay,
Forever Australian, listening to a man
From careless Italy, swearing at our day.
When golden-lipped, the eagle-hawks came down
Hissing and whistling to eat of lovely her
And the blowflies with their shields of purple brown
Plied hatching to and fro across her fur,
I burnt her with the logs, and stood all day
Among the ashes, pressing home the flame
Till woman, logs and dreams were scorched away
And native with the night, that land from whence they came.


Anonymous said...

Must keep an eye out for this one.

sarah toa said...

That is a beautiful, beautiful poem.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez said...

Such a lovely poem, but the introduction you gave of the life of the writer made it so much more interesting to me.

Thank you for sharing:)

Elisabeth said...

This poem certainly captures the poignancy and intensity of Eve Langley's life as you describe it here. Thanks for alerting me to it.

Anonymous said...

I'm reading her biography by Joy Thwaite. Such a sad intensely experienced life .. she haunts my thoughts.