Late autumn evening treading wet leaves on the broad embankment beside the dark river; starry sky and the pavement spotted with lights dark pools between those balustrade sentries the eighty year old yablochkov candles (the country’s very first electric street lights) still throwing the trees’ shadows across the road to Victoria’s gardens.
Perhaps memory twists my tale; mike, dave, wally, ray, with me five of us, fresh lads freshers too up from the far country to study to see the big city to re-start a life men now together soliciting knowledge tempting experience.
Interned for a Chelsea month, then the anticipated incursion, our first excursion into the great city set for new challenges no plan just exploration; for the moment nothing cerebral just life in the moment awaiting a happening neophytic greenhorns.
Walking where Victoria walked, or did she ever really enjoy her gardens by the river? thrilling evening walking that promenade, drinking the sights eating the sounds devouring the smells and tastes soaking up the river and the beer, Victoria’s Embankment Gardens.
We didn’t know it then nor did any of us suspect it was to be ray’s swan song sweet Thames run softly and be his swan song.
Turned up Villiers Street, Kipling’s and Evelyn’s street, tumbled into The Trafalgar, seedy then, well, rare student prices, waitress in black and white I remember the white cap with lace and black band the tiny white apron on black dress alluringly short wiping her hands by rubbing them seductively on her aproned thighs, “what can I get you lads?” … ribaldry … ray “what time do you finish?” … her answer no more than a half-smile;
After the spam fritters and the glorious knickerbockers and more small pink hands attentive hands rubbed clean on lacy white apron, ray’s eyes never taken off them then drinks nothing heavy.
Ray fell must have done from a great height smitten I would say to his adam’s apple core, eyes only for a pretty face and those lacy edges.
Conversation ricocheted across the tables voices spurted out their verbiage as those yablochkov candles expended their light, more raucous than uncouth.
Then the attempt to close to dispense with customers we head for the street ray stays in his seat “’bye chaps, I’ll see you.”
… But he never did.
Nor we him. Ever again.
The Thames Embankment is a work of 19th Century civil engineering which reclaimed marshy land next to the River Thames in central London. It follows the North Bank of the river from Westminster Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge.
The Victoria Embankment Gardens , built also in the latter part of the 19th Century, separate the embankment and the road running alongside from the buildings on the south side of Whitehall, Trafalgar Square and The Strand.
Villiers Street is a short connecting thoroughfare, now mainly pedestrianised, running from the Thames Embankment and Charing Cross underground Station uphill to the Strand, Charing Cross Mainline Railway Station and Trafalgar Square. It contains many restaurants and eating establishments. The Trafalgar Cafe, however, can no longer be found there.
Poem by WHB and re-published in memory of Dave and Mike – now passed on to where all memories are filed and all mysteries are resolved.
No murmur breaks the silence the afternoon is still the pool reflects the calmness which hovers in the air
The colours and the scent of flowers speak only of serenity and peace the splendour of the garden throbs with Nature’s pride a statement of the passion and the pleasures of creation
Tall distinguished Iris goddess of the rainbow clutch the water’s edge radiating their vibrant heritage stealing the sun’s power to enhance their golden presence their stature their boldness speaking their nobility and proudly defining their cool distinction
Whilst languid water lilies blanket the pool’s surface coveting recognition of their worth their foot pads watery meniscus a haven for the diffident carp shading all the pool’s life from the sun’s keen scrutiny
And then recalling their antique role in baiting that languorous youth Narcissus by encouraging the pool’s mirror to reflect his admiration bolstering his vanity and tempting him to his destruction
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.
I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.
Notes: (From Wikipedia):
Joyce Kilmer (born as Alfred Joyce Kilmer; December 6, 1886 – July 30, 1918) was an American writer and poet mainly remembered for a short poem titled “Trees” (1913), which was published in the collection Trees and Other Poems in 1914. Though a prolific poet whose works celebrated the common beauty of the natural world as well as his Roman Catholic religious faith, Kilmer was also a journalist, literary critic, lecturer, and editor. While most of his works are largely unknown, a select few of his poems remain popular and are published frequently in anthologies. Several critics—including both Kilmer’s contemporaries and modern scholars—have disparaged Kilmer’s work as being too simple and overly sentimental, and suggested that his style was far too traditional, even archaic. Many writers, including notably Ogden Nash, have parodied Kilmer’s work and style—as attested by the many parodies of “Trees”.
At the time of his deployment to Europe during World War I, Kilmer was considered the leading American Roman Catholic poet and lecturer of his generation, whom critics often compared to British contemporaries G.K.Chesterton (1874–1936) and Hilaire Belloc (1870–1953). He enlisted in the New York National Guard and was deployed to France with the 69th Infantry regiment (the famous “Fighting 69th”) in 1917. He was killed by a sniper’s bullet at the Second Battle of the Marne in 1918 at the age of 31. He was married to Aline Murray, also an accomplished poet and author, with whom he had five children.