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Malcolm Guite: Poet’s Corner

07 May 2021

As he prepares to move, Malcolm Guite’s walks around Linton have a valedictory feel

MY FAMILIAR walks and visits to favourite places in and around Linton have begun to take on a valedictory, almost elegiac feel, as I realise that, come July, we will be leaving Linton behind and starting a new life and new adventures in Norfolk (Poet’s Corner, 30 April). So, every walk seems to have an extra poignancy and savour as I gather into myself, and store in the treasury of my memory, all that I am seeing, rather like Frodo revisiting his favourite haunts in the Shire before setting out on his long journey — not that I am in any way comparing a journey to Norfolk with a journey to Mordor!

So, as I cross the Lady Bridge and admire some bright new painted stones on the ever-lengthening Linton Snake (Poet’s Corner, 5 March), I remember how I paused on this bridge, early in my time here, and watched the posturing of “Mussolini”, the village goose, and contrasted it with the humility of the village girl who bore our Saviour, and for whom our church is named. And, meeting the river again, this time at the ford by the millpond, I admire the delicate ripples spreading across the pond when a blossom falls and remember how, standing here once, I was inspired to write a poem about ripples in light and water in honour of Hertha Ayrton, the pioneering Girton scientist.

Walking up past the golden humming in Linton’s own “bee-loud glade”, I head for the green waterside pathways of “the pocket park”, where I used to fantasise about how wonderful it would be if one could actually have a “pocket park”: a magical green handkerchief that one could take out of one’s pocket, spread on the ground on some dull grey pavement, and — hey presto! — there would be a delightful garden and parkland to enter through a magic door. Each place is richer for its associations with some moment of thought, of contemplation, of creation.

They will all still be there, of course, when I’m gone, and there for me to revisit when I want; and they will be there in another sense as well. They will be there in my memory, ready to be summoned, to be visualised, to be entered into and dwelt in again as places of rest and meditation. I find that it is only the places where you have had some insight or inspiration, where something significant has happened, that first embed and then open themselves up in this way. It is as though an insight, or a significant moment, when it comes, attached itself to everything around it: to the falling of a blossom, to a ripple in the water, to the vista unfolding at a turn in the path.

It’s rather like those moments in the Gospels to which scholars have drawn our attention, when some little — indeed, unnecessary — detail is suddenly highlighted: that there was “much grass” in the place where the 5000 were fed; that the pool at Bethesda had “five porticoes”. These little details, indelibly etched on someone’s mind, suggest a living link, a personal memory: somebody was there to witness the wonder, and suddenly every detail in the scene was charged with significance and retained when they came to tell the story.

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