Isle of Wight Nostalgia - Poetry

A poem suggested by Terry Meyers

Terry writes, "Being a Swinburne scholar, I very much enjoy both the IoW and your site. Mary Gordon Leith, Swinburne's cousin, wrote a very good poem, published in 1878 in A Martyr Bishop and Other Poems, about the childhood the two shared together on the IoW, and I propose it for your poetry section".

Sketches from Recollection

A wide expanse of shifting ocean,
A wide expanse of breezy down:
Green glassy billows in ceaseless motion,
Dark furze, and short dry grass burnt brown,
Burnt yellow-brown by the strong sun's ray:
A nestling home in a shelter'd bay,
Far from the busy world's commotion,
The toil and traffic and smoke of town.

A steep white cliff with its bold projections,
Blue headlands running far out to sea,
And sunlit rocks with their bright reflections
In waters calm as a lake's might be:
The ripple of wavelets on the shore
Retreating, returning evermore;
All these and a thousand recollections
Are ever a present delight to me.

The merry voices of children playing
Out on the grass, in the summer sun:
An old white pony at pleasure straying
Around the field when his work was done:
A boat in-shore with a sunlit sail
Lazily fann'd by the evening gale:
A flag on a flagstaff lazily swaying
O'er the terrace crown'd by a watchful gun.

The old Church tower of the village, hiding
Among the trees on either hand:
The long blue arm of the sea, dividing
The island shore from its mother-land:
Fortress, and rock, and deep dark cave,
The scent of the wave and the sound of the wave:
The beacon-head for the mariners' guiding;
And wondrous beauties of tinted sand.

Our wanderings over the downs at even,
As even deepen'd into night,
Watching the stars come out in heaven
And fading gleams of western light;
When bats are abroad on fluttering wing,
And booming beetles, and each strange thing
Of insect birth, whereunto it is given
To wheel in the dusk its uncertain flight.

The hedges bright with wild roses blowing
And honeysuckle, beside the way:
The pleasant breath of the year's new mowing,
The busy workers among the hay,
All these that made our wanderings sweet,
Spite of the dust and spite of the heat
Of the broad June sun above us, glowing
In undimm'd brightness the live-long day.

And years roll onward, the years that sever
From times most sweet, as they wax and wane:
Fairer days may be ours, but never
Shall those calm days return again
When in the cloudless summer weather
We wandered over those scenes together,
Whose memory shall be a joy for ever
To heighten gladness, to soothe in pain.

Mary Gordon Leith

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Verse © Mary Gordon Leith
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