A PAIR of jays, dressed to the nines, swing warily from the
holly bush - although the whole village knows that the white cat
has never caught a thing in her life, being sloth incarnate. Yet
the fine birds look down on my feast of crusts and old Christmas
nuts with caution. The day is still, its light subdued. We have to
read Jeremiah and John, both good authors.
At the Suffolk Poetry Society meeting we listened to an American
woman reading from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. President
Lincoln has been assassinated in the theatre, but the violence has
been contained, and somehow robbed of its lasting evil. The quiet
New England voice says: "When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd .
. . I mourn'd, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring." It
is one of those openings which capture the imagination.
The Connecticut reader asks: "Have you been to Connecticut?"
"Yes, but long ago. Though not in the fall."
When Lincoln's coffin continues on its way, it might well have
been down my farm track:
Amid lanes and through old
woods, where lately the violets
peep'd from the ground,
spotting the gray debris,
Amid the grass in the fields each
side of the lanes, passing the
Passing the yellow-spear'd wheat,
every grain from its shroud in
the dark-brown fields uprisen. . .
When the Suffolk farmers emigrated to New England in the 17th
century, they took their seed corn with them, plus the seed of our
wild flowers - or weeds, as we call them. Heartbreaking, it must
have been. Did lilacs go, too? In order to bloom for a murdered
I tidy paths in warm sunshine. All the birds sing. Dutifully, I
read Jeremiah and John, seeing what they have to say. Jeremiah
despairs at our incorrigible nature: "Can the leopard change his
spots?" John records Jesus saying: "I am the light of the
It is Lent 4. Geese scream over to the river. Neighbours walk
by. We tell each other the obvious: that the afternoon is warm and
wonderful, that it is good to be out. In the evening, I read
Kilvert's Diary for mid-March: "This morning I received a
nice letter from dear Louie Williams, who is barmaid at the Bell
Hotel, Gloucester. She enclosed a piece of poetry entitled 'Clyro
Water' and signed Eos Gwynddwr which she had cut out of last week's
Hereford Times, not knowing the verses were mine. . ."
Poor Kilvert; when he asked his father, should he publish his
poems? the answer was a definite no. What old Mr Kilvert would have
made of the great diary, the Lord only knows. The Welsh border, to
which, one way or another, I seem to become more and more attached,
is haunted by the robust and yet short-lived Francis Kilvert. How
hard he worked! How far he walked! How self-revealing he was.
When he walked to Credenhill on a "lovely and cloudless" March
day in 1879, he would not have known of the existence of Thomas
Traherne. This amazes me - that the wonderful prose-poet who died
in 1674 should not have been read until my lifetime.