Category Archives: Poem
This image brought back to mind a favourite poem from my school days, Oliver Goldsmith’s Deserted Village and the title is ‘borrowed’ from the opening line The extract below will perhaps give some indication of why the poem appealed to a young teenage boy.
Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way,
With blossomed furze unprofitably gay,
There, in his noisy mansion, skilled to rule,
The village master taught his little school;
A man severe he was, and stern to view;
I knew him well, and every truant knew;
Well had the boding tremblers learned to trace
The day’s disasters in his morning face;
Full well they laughed, with counterfeited glee,
At all his jokes, for many a joke had he;
Full well the busy whisper, circling round,
Conveyed the dismal tidings when he frowned;
Yet he was kind; or if severe in aught,
The love he bore to learning was in fault.
The village all declared how much he knew;
‘Twas certain he could write, and cipher too;
Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage,
And even the story ran that he could gauge.
In arguing too, the parson owned his skill,
For e’en though vanquished, he could argue still;
While words of learned length and thundering sound
Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around,
And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew
That one small head could carry all he knew.
I had no notion at the time of the poem’s satirical connotations.
And a Blackbird Sang
In deepest pain
I sought a lover’s arms.
In solace and in warmth
I lay relieved and soothed.
I thought of all who lay alone,
hurt, distressed, wounded without redress,
throughout the troubled world
and wept hot tears of love.
Just then outside on frozen bough
a blackbird sang his morning ode of joy,
and smiling through the tears
I saw all pain and love as one.
St Agnes is one of the smallest of the five inhabited islands in the Scilly archipelago. At its widest point it measures less than one mile and has a population of 72.
It has just one, single track road that climbs up from the quay and loops round the lighthouse at the island’s highest point before dipping down to the sea and then rejoining itself, rather in the manner of a letter P. There are very few motorized vehicles – almost all of which are tractors or electric buggies. The pace of life is dictated by the tides and the boat timetable – boats being the only form of transport to other islands except in cases of emergency. There is one pub and one shop.
The silence is golden – punctuated more often by bird calls than by people. The air is pure – direct from the Atlantic – the nights are starry. The landscape is natural and unspoiled. And so one could go on …..
But there is another face to St Agnes. This island paradise is surrounded by treacherous seas and rocks that have claimed thousands of lives over the centuries. Just beyond the pool pictured above is the Island’s playing field beneath which are buried many of the men who died with Sir Cloudesley Shovell in the great naval disaster of 1707. Frequently in past centuries men from the Island have selflessly rowed out in their six oared gig to ships in danger and have navigated a safe passage. The churchyard bears testimony to the perils of the sea.
In the bottom photo Bishop Rock lighthouse can be seen on the horizon, just beyond the Western Rocks (the graveyard of many vessels).
Two faced Saint.
(St Agnes Isle).
A calm sea now, a gentle isle and fair.
Named Agnes, Lamb of God, saintly, pure.
Smooth are the sunlit backs of docile cows.
Heady, the tang of moorland ling and salt sea weed.
Beyond the cricket pitch, a preening gull
Presides over newly towered church and quiet bay,
Basking in virgin air, loving the light,
Lulled by an unctuous, silky sea.
One face holy, exhaling quiet;
The other secret, inhaling death where
Sedge gives way to slimy, salt-edged pools
Shadowed by wind tortured stones.
There lie bleached skulls, jetsam
Of a violent sea.
Close by the Western rocks glint greedily
Like dragons’ teeth ringing Bishop Rock.
Those steel needles will gnash, slash and maul
When the sun’s fire damps down;
Will rend bowsprit, shrouds, and men
Lured by that treacherous siren maid.