Friday, 4 November 2011

A Wider View

I have been back to Selborne. I first went there a couple of years ago with friends from a writing group. We had tea in the parlour, looked round Gilbert White's house and then went into the garden to see if we could write poems. No one was writing poems this time - the rain had been torrential and there were strong winds. I could see the garden, washed clean and brighter than ever in all its autumn colours. I remembered the quinces and 'the one juicy apple' and how I had imagined the presence of Gilbert White strolling around the orchard, keeping a leisurely pace with his tortoise. This is the poem I wrote.




...and you would get up in cold darkness and think
How do I want this moment to be?  Recall
rain in the night, sound of it dripping
on leaves in the orchard and you’d
light a small candle and write about rain ―
or rooks in the tree tops, whistling of plovers,
dust in the sunlight soft on the barley,
progress of wheat.  And I

in your garden at a much later season, examine
an apple ― the one juicy apple left behind on a tree,
touch shrivel-hard quinces and imagine
this autumn as you, as a Selborne man,
a bit over blown, slightly blurred
at the edge, ambling along, all the time
in the world, through russet and golden
and green.

There are gates now at Selborne,
a series of gates, leading on
to a wider view. Could you have coped
with a wider view? You seem to have taken
no notice of busy-ness, events or activities
outside your walls.  A world of upheaval and you,
cocooned in a cameo with flowers and fruit.

Enough. We are just
envious. The Book of Nature
Ever Open is beginning to close,
for us.

But there is time, you would have replied,
for strolling along with a tortoise,
the pairing of partridges
and the last crocus of spring.

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