Greetings, Poetry Lovers - I had already sipped my daily cup of English tea (Clipper) early on Thursday before I heard the worrisome news of the Queen's decline, and then, later, the sad news of her death.
Between both of those pieces of news, my mind went back to our 1994 trip to England to visit friends of Jeff's family and have a look around. (Our Morgan was just a wee two-year-old.) We were based in Kent, with a sojourn or two to London. For a couple of days, our little family stayed at a renovated Victorian farmhouse on the grounds of Sissinghurst Castle. An Elizabethan tower survives, and in the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I did visit a mansion house there.
Now the world-renowned gardens draw throngs of visitors each year. These spectacular outdoor rooms were created in the 1930s by poet and writer Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicolson (an author and diplomat). They were quite the bohemians and interesting characters. You can learn more about them and the castle gardens here.
Sackville-West (1892-1962) published novels as well as poetry and also wrote articles, letters, and journals. She loved the outdoors, as did Queen Elizabeth II.
On our trip, at Sissinghurst, I bought an edition of two of Sackville-West's most famous works together - The Land & The Garden. The book has striking illustrations by Peter Firmin and an introduction by Nigel Nicolson (Frome and London: Webb & Bower, 1989).
As we're now about to welcome Fall, and with the heavy news from across The Pond, I thought these opening words from AUTMUMN (part of THE LAND) were fitting:
by Vita Sackville-West
How slow the darkness comes, once daylight's gone,
A slowness natural after English day,
So unimpassioned, tardy to move on,
No southern violence that burns away,
Ardent to live, and eager to be done.
The twilight lingers, etching tree on sky;
The gap's a portal on the ridge's crest;
The partridge coveys call beyond the rye;
Still some red bar of sunset cracks the west;
The orange harvest-moon like a dull sun
Rolls silent up the east above the hill;
Earth like a sleeper breathes, and all is still
This hour of after-day, the dying day's bequest,
This autumn dusk, when neither day nor night
Urges a man to strive or sleep; he stands
Filled with the calm of that familiar place,
(The verses go on for miles....)
I'm grateful that Queen Elizabeth was able to say her goodbyes in a place that was calm and familiar to her. I heard in a news story that she liked to tell guests at Balmoral exactly where to stand outside on the grounds at midnight, to have the best view of the stars in the vast Scottish sky.
Our wonderful Carol has this week's Roundup at Beyond Literacy Week. Thank you, Carol!