Friday, 1 May 2009

A Wish for William Morris

Kelmscott Manor

One of the greatest poets of our time, UA Fanthorpe, died yesterday, age 79. Sad to think that there will be no more of her words.

Apologies to Peterloo Press for probable breach of copyright, but I loved her work and hope possibly others might enjoy it also. This seemed the most appropriate poem for this blog. Kelmscott Manor is owned and managed by the Society Of Antiquaries of London.

"To read U.A.Fanthorpe is always to enter into a gathering sense of the seriousness of poetry, of its project of recording human meaning, and, above all, of the importance of affection. "Love is so persistent, it survives/With no one's help", as one of her earliest poems ('The Watcher', p.23) points out."

A Wish for William Morris
(for Nick Bailey)

I’d have let him die here
That great lover of things
In the place he loved best.

Not graceless Hammersmith
That he healed in his book
But in the old manor,

Kelmscott by the river,
Where the bed was ready,
That he wrote the verse for,

May curtained, Jane sewed for,
With grass scent, late rose scent,
Invading the window,

Distant shouting of sheep,
A bravura blackbird,
Always his true love Thames.

The last time he came here
In springtime, in springtime,
Cuckoos whooped at seven,

Rooks and appleblossom,
Mediaeval garden,
Friend with a manuscript.

I’d have let him die then,
Saved from the wheelchair,
The hallucinations,

Blood leaping from his mouth,
Not knowing anyone.
He died in Hammersmith.

But they brought him home
In a harvest cart
Vine leaves all over

Past the house he’d found
To the church he’d saved
By his true love Thames.

O if there were justice they’d have saved him –
Twelve statues at Oxford on Mary Virgin’s spire;
Blythburgh church; Peterborough’s
Great interior; the north-west tower
At Chichester; the lock-keepers roof
At Eaton weir; a little barn
Vandalised at Black Bourton

Fights of his last three years.

O if there were justice they’d have saved him –
The tower, the Suffolk angels, the non-pareil nave,
The tower, the roof the barn – they’d have pulled him back
As he did them. And Rouen itself,
Rouen itself and little Bourton
Would have come to deliver him

But things are as they are.
It was raining. Leaves still on the lime trees,
Church ready for harvest.

William Morris died at Hammersmith on 2 October 1896. His funeral took place on 6 October, at St George’s Church, Kelmscott, Oxfordshire.

This poem is by UA Fanthorpe, from her collection Queueing for the Sun 2003. Peterloo Poets Calstock, Cornwall.


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