Requiem For The Hedgehog

Poor hedgehog in the road squashed by a car,
What good to you was your hibernation?
Had you woken up but one day later
You might have lived to see the summer through.
But alas you were not destined to be
Another Mrs Tiggywinkle,
Hanging out washing till a ripe old age.
In the horse-drawn days of Beatrix,
Hedgehogs had greater life expectancy!

27th April 1971

Lucy

Out of the corner of my eye
I watch my wakeful daughter
In my arms
Afraid to catch her infant glance
As I move
To a slow sleepmaking rhythm
which affects only me.
Her tiny fingers
Move over my face,
Feeling everything,
Nose, mouth and eyes,
with exquisite touch
And quiet squeals of joy,
Intakes of breath
And kicking feet,
So different from the
Howling child I picked up.
At last she sucks her thumb,
Covers her face with a cloth
And I know that sleep is near.
I thought it wouldn’t come tonight,
So long I’ve swayed
And sung and cooed
In the darkened room.
But her head falls back
And pale eyelids close
To shut out my face.
Her limbs hang heavy
In my aching arms.
I lay her in the cot
And like a thief
Steal from the room
And pull the door to,
with fingers crossed
And “Shush”
To my waiting wife.

July 1972

Under the Limes

My friends, the limes are blooming now
And in their vaults the holy bees
Intone their sacred offices.

Of all high Summer’s sacraments,
This moves me most and with sweet scents
Body and mind intoxicates.

For this brief moment in the year,
Come share the fragrance of the limes
And, like the bees, forget all else.

The two giant limes in the school playground are in full flower. 5.7.92

Blackbird

A blackbird sat on the school fence
Watching the boys doing long jump.
“This is the way you do it,” he said,
And swooping down from his perch
Flew the whole length of the sand pit.

A Red Cardinal

A red cardinal
Flew into the house today
And lost himself in
The orange of the sofa.
Only the black line
Of his beak and the brilliant
Eyes gave him away.

Seychelles, 31 October 1968

Cow Parsley

This year there is a
Splendid crop of cow parsley
In St Peter’s Valley.
I know you think it funny
That I should love this
Tall ungainly flower which
Grows head and leafy shoulders
Over scarlet campion
And ragged robin,
But its clouds of faded white
Are the saving grace
Of many a marshy field.

1968

To Samuel Palmer

Now breaks the snowy may upon the hedge
And Spring the orchard fills with waves of white.
High sails the full-frown moon across the skies
And floods the dreaming sheepfolds with its light.
The early shepherd plays upon his pipe
And calls the distant dawn across the night.

In Shoreham’s fields the mystic grain still grows,
The wheatsheaves ripen in the August sun,
The spirit whispers in the sacred groves
Of lives well ordered and of work well done.
In valleys thick with corn dead Virgil lives
And through your visions speaks to everyone.

October 1980