After the dark horrors of Germany, it was back home to England – home to idyllic summer days rowing and sailing on the Solent; to weekly visits to Chichester Cathedral for organ lessons, to visits to the then privately-owned remains of a Roman villa, and cycle trips to the Island’s countless historic spots like, for instance, Carisbrooke Castle where Charles 1st was imprisoned and, of course, across the Spithead there was always Nelson’s Victory!
Five : Home again.
“The child that I was still lives within, for where else would he have gone?” St. Augustine of Hippo.
Coxing at regattas,
Then rowing “bow” or “stroke”,
In slender, graceful galleys
That skimmed like birds afloat:
Of sailing in the Solent
‘Mid liners towering proud,
With gleaming hulls and upperworks,
And screaming gulls a-loud.
Of visits to the Victory
To the spot where Nelson fell,
To feel and hear the cannons roar
And live that glorious hell;
Vespers in the abbey of Quarr:
Gregorian Chant thro’ the sun-lit door;
And on a summer’s evening fair,
The sound of bird-song in the air.
Roman thoughts in the Roman villa
Where centuries before,
A Tuscan man stood pondering
On Trajan’s Rhenish wars.
The sudden sight of Vikings
As their Long Ships drove ashore,
Re-living the blood-stained drama
Of a thousand years – and more.
Of sitting where poor Keats had sat
In the slowly darkening room,
Where, gazing on the castle walls,
He thought on Charles’ doom;
Cathedral walks and soaring spire
Of Chichester so dear
And learning, high above the choir
How close was heaven there.
Of holidays in Cornwall,
And the seas of Lyonesse,
Where the sinister Wolf Rock rises high,
And phantom ships still press.
Of Cornish cream and Cornish pies;
The Scilly’s – Nirvanas of flowers;
And the casting of pots for lobsters
In the “Garden of Maiden Bower”.
How far did seem this Eden
From the land of Sturm und Drang,
Where Otto showed me the Goose-step
And his wounds from the storming of Crete,
As he told of the “glorious battles”
That they fought at the Führer’s feet;
Where the Berlin Philharmonic,
In a crowded, bomb-scarred hall,
Performed the wond’rous Pastoral hymn
Of Man before his Fall.
Where oft I stole potatoes
From the misty fields of farms,
To help a German family
Escape starvation’s arms.
And I remembered Martha
Who had knelt among the dead,
‘Mid the raging fires of Hamburg,
While her dying mother bled.
And Martha, lovely Martha
Waving sadly by the train;
And Martha, gentle Martha
Standing crying in the rain.
Poem and sketch@thurstanbassett