'for maiden tongues of love will talk
and all their fancies turn on love;
and when we pulled the tender stalk,
and the fair flowers about it wove,
and flung it in the tiny torrent,
'this he, and this is I', we cried,
'as fare her flowers by wind and current,
to each shall weal or woe betide.'
This is the prime version, unseen since its appearance at Christie’s in 1902, of one of Leslie’s most celebrated pictures which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1870. A reduced replica can be found in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (no. 393). The title of the picture, derives its name from the game, better known to modern audiences as 'pooh-sticks', whereby the girls are casting flowers into a stream, to predict their marital fortunes. Some have a smooth course, while others are less lucky. Dunlop Leslie’s aim, however was to 'paint pictures from the sunny side of English domestic life, and as much as possible to render them cheerful companions of their possessors'. He saw his times as imbued with 'turmoil, misery, hard work and utilitarianism' and he believed that images of innocence, joy and beauty were things he could usefully contribute to society.