Ode to a Tall Case Clock

Samuel Harley tallcase 2


O, Clock. What can you tell me about your history? Did you suffer wars and revolutions?There are two musket shots in the oak facing the wall, but your front is not disturbed. In our revolution, here in the colonies, we shoved some of our smaller tots in the tall case clocks and the British opened the doors and shot the children dead. We learned fast not to do this, as our burial plots filled up with young killed by starvation and disease, beside the savagery of the British.

I see from your hand painted dial your maker was Samuel Harley, on the Severn, that slow poke river that wound around the town of the same name. Harley was born in 1760, so I can deduct that you were born around 1780 or so. Samuel must have been put to apprentice at 15 years with a clock maker or perhaps his father was one. History is sometimes mystery.

You are, by measure, three inches higher than what was custom, so were you made for a country squire’s house that had taller walls? One side of your crown on top is broken off, but I can whittle a piece out of oak, stain it and replace the damage. You have no brass moldings so you were not an exceedingly expensive clock, not one to grace the entrance hall of London Square, but stately enough for a country home. Your bonnet is pleasing, and that stationary painted dial above is a picture of Severn town, still with recognizing features of a church steeple and prominade. I think by the clothing of the figures who trod your path you might be as young as 1790.

You are made of Honest English Oak, the bulk of you from a general pattern. Little pillars of maghoney grace your hood on each side, but there is only gold etched (paint) of a spiderly kind in the four corners of your dial. Your elegance is subdued but you would be not sneared at by an Assembly in Bath or the Pump Room. You, and by your extra height can hold your own in any gentle society.

What did you hear and see? Were you carted around from house to lesser house as your owner’s fortunes declined? Did you suffer the beeswax of a tired maid who was paid less than 5 pounds a year?

How did you get to America and how did you land in Atlanta? When the pickers from Life Cycle came to your Buckhead house how had you, beautiful thing, ended up in the garage. The elderly woman told them to ‘take that old clock’ and the men gently put you on top of the pile. You ended up in the warehouse, covered and closed with green tape and we saw you the third day you arrived. The supervisor was smart and generous. For three days he was given ‘lowball’ quotes by people who could sell you for three times your unimproved self. We walked in, saw you, and we fell in love. We climbed a ladder to peak into your inners and behind you and the man asked us what we would do with you.

Oh Lovely Clock. We would do nothing to ‘improve’ you except to polish you with your usual beeswax, and I to take my morning tea observing the sunlight that floated across your form. He was delighted with our response and sold you to us at a reduced price. I would have paid twice the asking because I had fallen in love.  You raised my heart and spirit and allowed me to think about the mystery of history.

Rest easy Clock. You are home and you will never suffer war or revolution again. We will grow older together and delight in the shine and subtle light of your finish. An occasional cat will visit and spray but that is little insult as to what you have known.

You delight us in every angle.   We have had the perfect place for 50 years waiting for you to grace our own Georgian house in America.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2020

2 Responses to “Ode to a Tall Case Clock”

  1. sunmoonstar13 Says:

    A lovely ode to your beautiful clock! It’s like a new family member has joined your household 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ladynyo Says:

    thank you Nick. Thinking about making this into a short story…..

    Liked by 1 person

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