Thursday, December 13, 2012

Beyond This Present

Several weeks ago a neighbor discovered a sheaf of poems by Vernon Albert Ward, Jr. (1913-2000) who procured a summer job on Ocracoke in 1938, and helped establish an "Artists Colony" on the island in 1940 & 1941 ( The 48 pages of poems are yellow and brittle, but they reveal an idealistic young man struggling with life, beauty, love, sex, politics, war, and peace.

Most of the poems do not refer to Ocracoke, but one political poem does. "Beyond This Present" references "The meeting of four great men in Europe this week, The dismemberment of Czechoslovakia" (almost certainly the 1938 "Munich Agreement" by which Nazi Germany annexed portions of Czechoslovakia, which was signed by Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy).

The poet writes:

"Here on this island
All outwardly is quiet.
The sun warms the sand,
The sea runs gently,
And the forests are still.
Fisherman steer their boats
Into the sound
And fish their nets.
Housewives milk in the morning
And quilt in the evening.
Young people dance
At the Village."

He goes on to say:

"But underneath the calm
A strong tide is running.
The people are restless,
Disturbed inwardly."

He ends his poem this way:

"For I am not one
Of this mad generation.
Mine is the land of universal love.

I look beyond the war that is coming
To the time of peace and rebuilding,
To the time when all men of all nations
Will join hands in brotherhood,
When every man will work for the good of all
And the earth will be returned to man.

"I, for one,
Look beyond this present
To the time of peace.
For beyond this present
A new light is shining."

Let us join with Vernon Ward, and again hope that this coming Christmas season will bring us closer to a "time of peace" with a "new light shining."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the time Charles Lindbergh landed on Ocracoke. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous6:20 AM

    Wow, what a find! This is why I wrote the other day that you should write a many interesting people and events on Ocracoke to read about. I'd like to know where and how these pages were found...were they stuffed in a nook somewhere or in boxes waiting to be discovered? What a beautiful poem. I share your sentiment of hopes that this coming season will bring us closer to a 'time of peace."
    NJ Reader

  2. bill kostar7:08 AM

    You might want to send the poem to the Hyde County Commissioners to help them settle down a bit and work to bring some peace of mind to island residents.
    They seem to view Ocracoke as a remote colony instead of a part of their greater community.

  3. It was gripping. Thank you for sharing. What a treasure. Lou Ann

  4. Anonymous8:35 AM

    Ditto...Amen to that!

  5. The bundle of poems was just one of many items (letters, newspaper clippings, old deeds, etc.) that were discovered in a cardboard box that belonged to an islander who died several years ago. I will share some of the lengthier pieces in upcoming monthly Newsletters.

  6. Anonymous2:20 PM

    Inspiring, well written poem, with even a tad of OI history-- I didn't know there were cows on the island in 1938. What other animals were still around then?

  7. There were semi-wild horses, of course; as well as cows, sheep, and goats. Most of these animals roamed the island "down below" (between the edge of the village and Hatteras Inlet), although they were periodically rounded up, treated for ticks, and branded.

  8. Anonymous3:53 PM

    Thanks so much Philip.-- DC

  9. Anonymous11:47 AM

    I, tried substituting the noun community activist for housewife, then I tried farmer, or seamstress or spy or party planner or tailor or psychologist, domestic engineer, do you suppose the term housewife evolved due to the confusing nature of the word mistress. Now that is a word -- the M-word-- talk about 21st century noun that needs updating tell is like it is Housewrecker.