“His Little Span is Ended”
In 1906, Victoria artist Emily Carr moved to Vancouver to assume the post of art teacher for the affluent Ladies’ Art Club. When that quickly failed, she rented a studio on Granville Street and taught children’s classes instead. As she described in her 1946 autobiography Growing Pains, “My pride stiffened, my energy crisped. I fetched my sheep-dog and cage of bullfinches from Victoria, added a bunch of white rats, a bowl of goldfish, a cockatoo and a parrot to my studio equipment.” Billie the sheepdog and Sally the white, lemon-crested Australian cockatoo often accompanied Carr on sketching trips, in the city with her young class or alone along British Columbia’s coast. These pets also became recurring characters in autobiographical drawings, with which Carr occupied herself when not painting West Coast landscape and Indigenous culture and honing her own modernist style. In this elegiac ballad that combines illustration with quatrains, Billie, Sally and Carr mourn the death of a goldfish: His little span is ended, His little tail is still, His lustrous eye is glassey And pale his dainty gill. His flapping fins are wings now, A tail he does not wish, Alike to him earth, sea and sky; He is an astral fish.While considering burial methods, Carr decides upon disposal “in the inlet deep and blue,” but muses upon a possible return to her dinner plate, which of course is whimsical silliness. Carr used the same nom de plume, SPUDZ, in political cartoons for local newspapers and in other illustrated autobiographical stories, such as Sister and I in Alaska (1907, National Gallery of Canada) and The Merry Widdow (Royal BC Museum and Archives)—the latter also in verse about her pet rat Peter’s death and his widow Peggie.