In Love

When did the starlight happier seem than now?
The evening’s quiet, when so full of peace?
How does heaven seem so near to me
Now, when I have wished away my heart?

Why has the night so sober been?
Why has my mind been reason’s moon?
That this poor sun has felt so long a night
The bark of last year’s growth has now unveiled
A green and stripling age of mind;
Eloping with this redder, browner blaze
Of hopeful, living love.

The two paintings above are by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828  – 1882).   His model, who he considered his muse, and who later became his wife, was Elizabeth Siddal (1829 – 1862). 

SONG – My First Romance

Is there a hope that I can hold,
A hope that I can to me fold
You in my arms,
Die by your charms?

Is there a word that I can say,
A word that will in part repay
You for your trust?
Hold you I must.

Is there in this a single tie,
A knot, a bond, a little lie
To bind, to fix,
Buttress the mix?

Is there a part that I can play?
Can I be certain from today?
Give me the chance –
My first romance.

THE JOYOUS DEAD

The souls of the dead are out for the night;
Relieved of life’s burdens, no cares in their world.
They’ve cast off their dresses, their suits and their coats.
They’ve shed their repressions, their shrouds now unfurled.

Yes, the souls of the dead are alive in this graveyard
They relish their freedom from exigent life.
It’s a long time since spirits were body and flesh,
And bound by a lifetime’s perpetual strife.

Their skulls and their cross-bones – now symbols of joy;
No more are they bound up by sinews and  flesh.
At last they are free to enjoy independence,
Instead of entangled in life’s viscous mesh.

The gravestones that tumble aren’t suffering from age,
But signs that life’s shadows from death have arisen,
And now are quite free to enjoy their repose;
No longer locked up in Life’s sepulchral prison.

‘Tis weird to think that those re-incarnated
Are liking their life in the desolate grave.
They’re loving their freedom to scare and to haunt
To curdle the blood and to panic the brave.

The ghosts of the past are there in the air
And hugely enjoying their spirited life
Their terminal death has brought to an end
Their fear of the gun, the rope and the knife.

They’re dancing on graves where their bodies were buried
Carousing as though not a netherworld care
‘Tis different from life all bedevilled with worries
Less urgent and pressing than work to be fair.

They hide when the day comes of course, as you know,
They do need to re-charge their unworldly spirits
To ready the next bout of haunting and mirth
For them now there aren’t any rational limits.

Crepuscular light is enough for their congress
With help from the thunder, the wind, and the lightning,
They frolic and haunt, enjoying the moment;
The wraiths, spooks and demons intent on their frightening.

The banshees and devils all join in the fun,
The shades and the vampires, the ghouls and the phantoms,
The wraiths with the zombies, kelpies and ghosts
Give vent to their passions in furious tantrums.

So do not despair when you‘re laid in the ground
A new life will certainly sprout from your ashes
A life full of spirit, of new spectral bliss
A bonus when mortal life finally passes.

The photographs used to illustrate this poem were all taken by me over a period of several years at churchyards in Surrey and in Devon, U.K.

Time’s Detritus

Photo: WHB … In a Devon Farmyard – 2004

Once upon a time
In a pool and mired in grime,
I found a body, floating high.
A desolate place to die.

A basin for a tomb;
Blue plastic for a shroud.
A watery necropolis
For beauty now anonymous.

Abandoned, left to rot,
That was to be her lot.
Discarded and bereft,
Beauty the sands of time had left.

She’s found a resting place
Without sacrament or grace.
Long ago loved but now
The victim of a broken vow.

This unseemly end
My heart did rend.
‘The detritus of time’
Will end my rhyme.

Poem: WHB

Bridge Over The Atlantic

Clachan Bridge (‘Bridge Over the Atlantic’ – Scotland … Photo: WHB

There is a bridge 
Across a stream,
An inlet of the sea.
I see it as
Much more than that –
A link ‘twixt you and me.

It spans the gap,
It binds the space
Across the fearsome oceans.
It joins our thoughts,
And culls despair;
Intensifies emotions.

It’s name it claims 
Describes its task –
To link our worlds intact;
And that it does,
But here’s the rub,
It cannot ease our hurt in fact.

A grandiose name; 
A claim to fame.
If I were being pedantic,
I’d cry with shame,
And take the blame
For being so Romantic.

The Clachan Bridge is a simple, single-arched bridge spanning the Clachan Sound, 14 miles south-west of Oban in Argyll, Scotland.  It links the west coast of the Scottish mainland to the island of Seil.  The bridge was built in 1793 with a single high arch, designed to allow the passage of vessels of up to 40 tonnes at high tide.

Because the Clachan Sound connects at both ends to the Atlantic Ocean, and might therefore be considered part of that ocean, the bridge came to be known as the

‘Bridge over the Atlantic’. 

Stop The Clocks

W.H.Auden … Pen & Sepia Wash: WHB – 2001

FUNERAL  BLUES by W.H.AUDEN

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come. 

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves. 

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Auden composed two versions of this poem.  This, the most popular version, was composed in 1938.  It was written to be sung by the soprano Hedli Anderson in a setting by Benjamin Britten.  It is now frequently used in funeral services, particularly since It was widely popularised in the 1994 British romantic comedy film ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’.

The pen and wash drawing above was made by me in 200. 
It is of Auden when in his sixties.

‘I’m Thinking’: A Dialogue

A.  Don’t interrupt me when I’m thinking.
B.   What about?
A.  You wouldn’t want to know.
B.   Why?  Is it a secret?
A.   Could be.
B.   Tell me.
A.   Wouldn’t be a secret if I did.
B.   Now you intrigue me.
A.   Secrets are for keeping to yourself.
B.   Who says?
A.   That’s the definition of a secret.
B.   But if you tell me I won’t tell anyone.
A.   If I do tell you it won’t be a secret any more.
B.   But only you and I will know.
A.   But then someone else might ask you to tell them.
B.   But I won’t tell them.
A.   But that’s what you said to me.
B.   I did?
A.   Yes … And then you told me.
B.   Did I?
A.   Oh!
B.   It’s no secret that you can’t keep a secret, you know.
A.   Is it?
B.   How do you know that?
A.   It’s a secret.
B.   Tell me.
A.   No,
B.   Why?
A.   It wouldn’t be a secret if I did.

My photographs of the two sculptural heads were taken at ‘Sculpture Heaven’ in Wales  . . .

The Sculpture Gardens, Workshops and Galleries.
Ceri Gwnda,  Rhydlewis, Llandysul,  Ceredigion., SA44 5RN

All the  sculptures there have a strong connection to the fabled past. The works have the appearance of classical antiquities. Many are by British sculptor, Jon Barnes, with artists Terry and Rose Barter complementing the range with their carvings of the  Green Man,  Buddhas, and contemporary sculpture.

Secrets

‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil’   (Photo – WHB)

A fuller description of the story of ‘The Three Monkeys’ and of the various interpretations of the maxim ‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil‘ is given following the poem below.  The idea for my verses was prompted by my acquisition of the above figurine, and are an attempt to get inside the mind of someone with secrets to keep.  I deny any relationship between my versified thoughts and my own reality.

SECRETS

“Ask no secrets, please”;
“Tell no lies indeed”;
For if you break these rules,
Then hearts will blanch and bleed.

“Never tell a secret”
Or so the saying goes.
So hold on to that rule.
Never the facts disclose.

“Your secret’s safe with me”
I’ve heard that said before.
It never is the case;
They always ask for more.

“I won’t tell if you won’t”
I said that as a child,
But what I had to hide then
Was relatively mild.

# # #

But now life is more complex;
I have more sins to hide.
Such damning indiscretions
I never could confide.

My secrets, now I’m older,
Are surely on the rise.
‘T would border on disaster;
To tell would not be wise.

The priest in all his wisdom
Receives confession now.
I cannot dare to tell him
Of  where and why and how.

# # #

But then, again, I wonder
What life would mean to me,
If all my peccadilloes
Were there for all to see.

Perhaps they’d view my sins
As Walter Mitty copies.
As venial casual slip-ups,
As minor paltry follies.

As commonplace as foibles;
As lethal as a pin.
Hardly ‘mea culpa’
And not Original Sin.

# # #

If others think them simple,
Not worthy of reflection,
Still to me they’re weighty
And threaten with detection.

I ask these questions blithely;
I truly want to know.
Do you have secret longings
That you will never show?

That you will never tell;
And let no one discover;
Let no one even guess
You’ve got a secret lover?

I would tempt fate and listen
To what you say and feel,
But I really fear the outcome
Of what your heart conceals.

Such secrets are forbidden
To all but you and me;
Unknown to friend or rival,
 And that’s how it should be.

# # #

Please keep your secrets from me;
We say we’ll never lie.
We tried to keep that promise,
To keep it till we die.

But when  with life we’re parting
We’ll lay them at our feet.
Our secrets are the same now –
No more, no more, deceit.

So only at the end
When all regrets must cease,
Perhaps we’ll be permitted
To find a kind of Peace.

# # #

CLYTIE

‘Clytie’ Sculpted by G.F.Watts … Pen & Ink sketch: WHB

In the verses below, I attempt to express Clytie’s plight when she finds her love for the Son God, Helios, rejected, and she is committed to watch his daily flight across the heavens in his winged chariot .  Eventually she is transformed into a sunflower or heliotrope , condemned for ever to follow the sun’s movements across the sky.

C L Y T I E

As dusk takes over from the day
I stand on Helios’ shore and weep.

Light for my soul,
Lust for my life;
These no more can I strive to keep.

Yet there is hope because the night
Is followed by expectant day.
The sun will rise
With hope intact,
And I’ll revive my destined way.

The languid sun will lift at dawn
Over the shimmering tranquil sea.
It is my dreams,
My Holy Grail,
And promises new hopes to me.

The sun renews its daily task.
As Clytie, I still strive to meld
Lovers’ aubade,
Their serenade.
With this till dusk my life is held.

Time’s chariot, its path I trace;
Helios arcs across the sky.
Till evening ends
In blood red  gore,
And once again I die.

But then again the cycle breaks
When dawn extends to dusk its kiss.
It’s carmine clinch,
Crimson caress,
Herald again life’s feud with bliss.