Autumn

In the summertime of his life, the poet had a blond-haired daughter who brought him beauty, warmth and happy chatter.  They shared confident hopes for the future.  But she died.  This poem states starkly and simply that there is no consolation.

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There is wind where the rose was;
Cold rain where sweet grass was;
And clouds like sheep
Stream o'er the steep
Grey skies where the lark was.

Nought gold where your hair was;
Nought warm where your hand was;
But phantom, forlorn,
Beneath the thorn,
Your ghost where your face was.

Sad winds where your voice was;
Tears, tears where my heart was;
And ever with me,
Child, ever with me,
Silence where hope was.

 

Il fait du vent là où la rose était ;

Une pluie froide où doux gazon était ;

Et nuages comme des moutons

Défilent sur les immenses

Cieux gris là où l’alouette était.

 

 

Rien d’or là où tes cheveux étaient ;

Rien de chaud là où ta main était ;

Rien que triste fantôme,

Au-dessous ‘ l’aubépine,

Ton ombre là où ton visage était.

 

 

Des vents mornes  là où ta voix était ;

Des larmes, larmes, là où mon cœur était

Et toujours auprès de moi,

Mon enfant, toujours auprès de moi,

Silence là où l’espoir était.

 
 

Footnote:  Walter De La Mare (1873-1956).

When I was a little boy in Primary School in the 1930s, we had a lot of poetry.  I was always pleased, when, as often happened, I saw the name of Walter De La Mare at the end of poems.   His poems looked easy, with short lines and words that I was familiar with.   Also his rhymes made real verse.  I thought that what made him a real poet also was the fancy name that he must certainly have made up.  At that time, no-one told us how he came to have the name, perhaps this was because this would involve grown-up history, requiring mention of centuries of religious butchery. 

Mr. Walter De La Mare had every right to his fine name because he came from a French family.  His ancestors had been among the 200,000 French Huguenots, who had risked their lives to leave their homeland for the security of non- Catholic countries, after 1685, when Louis XIV had instigated the brutal repression and forced conversion of French Protestants.  Among the forty to fifty thousand Huguenots who escaped to England were skilled craftsmen and members of the professional classes, who enriched a largely agrarian society with their talents – and their contribution continues.  Walter De La Mare is an illustration of this fortunate infusion.

Although Huguenots have integrated into British society, they still remain proud of their Huguenot heritage. A prominent example of my own acquaintance is the recent Principal of my college, the late Peter Hoddinot, whom I mention in respectful memory.

 
 
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