...I'd celebrate the roses of Paestum that flower twice a year... (Virgil: Georgics
IV: 119) ...he made for the rose-gardens of sunny Paestum... (Ovid: Metam. XV: 708)
For Ruth, recalling a visit to Castle Howard in 1991
July’s claws fix us. Needing a change
from burnt skin and sandy crotches,
we join a glinting cavalcade that rolls
over switchbacks towards the Great House,
once founded on trade, now buttressed
by trusts to open as a drive-in shrine.
Is this where gardens of roses
burst their buds twice a year?
Obelisk raised to a wily duke’s campaigns
and the founder’s glorious heritage
parts the straight road. We give way
at gatehouse arches, inhaling velour
and plastic as the ‘noble prospect’ towers
and expands in a haze of heat and fumes.
Cars graze a flattened paddock. We sweat
in a blazing queue of leisure wear
towards sash-windowed livery stables.
Turnstiles crank us in. Grounds Only
for me and my youngest. I’d sag with facts.
She loves space and nosing into flowers.
Not timed past ropes and arrows, pilfered
art, red rooms of state, glass-locked porcelain,
we cross manicured gravel where lord-
and-lady peacocks pick at their demesne.
Ranked limes drench us with shade.
We bathe under canopies of bees and leaves.
Scampering after birds my child leads me
to uncut grass hedged by lopped yews,
dances with butterflies, splashing her summer
stripes round a plinth and urn. I read
HERE A VIRGIL THERE AN OVID
REMEMBER THE ROSES OF PÆSTUM.
Here too a lost son of the house
is mourned and I read from his crumbled
tribute, darkening our talk as we pass
through a thick grove of laurels. Deep
in their shade sculptures pale as new
mushrooms, writhe and leer in twisted postures.
There spreads the south front’s ochre mask.
Its fifty steps once fell to four-season
gardens, patterned like a Persian carpet.
Round the Palladian gable triumphal
chariots, banners, plumed helmets moulder
behind moss and scaffold taped red for danger.
Where are the gardens of roses
that burst their buds again?
The first three parts of No Time for Roses explore various kinds of illusion in our
formative experience and in our emotional, artistic and spiritual lives. The final
part celebrates the power of love and mature perspectives over negative influences
such as the loss of circumstances, objects and people we are attached to.
Some of these poems appeared in Ambit and in annual editions of Behind the Scenes
Workshops, a Leicestershire Literature Development project. "Elegy at Pantasaph"
won second prize in the Bedford Open Poetry Competition 2007 and featured in The
Interpreter's House 37. The author owes much to members of Inky Fish with whom he
has workshopped countless poems since 1994, and in particular to Robert Hamberger
and Pam Thompson. Their detailed reading of this collection provided crucial perspectives
for its structure, content and text. Thanks are due also to Gordon Braddy. His perception
rescued several poems from being laboured or obscure. And the personal and professional
support of Darin Jewell (Inspira Group Literary Agency) has been indispensable.
'...He sulks, snorts, preaches new art forms...But there's enough space for all,
new and old: why do we have to wrestle?' (Chekov: The Seagull, act iii)
'It may come
to the notice of posterity... that this our age ran wild in the quest for new ways
to be new.' (Robert Frost: Introduction to King Jasper, poems of E.A. Robinson, 1935.)