A Painting by Winifred Nicholson
By Kathleen Raime
Sunlit green of a late summer hayfield
(The pikes all led and their faint circles faded)
Sheltered by abundant beech, goldening to autumn fire,
And beyond, soft English hills that close the view.
Some happy hand has gathered cistus, bergamot, scabious
From the untidy sheltered brick-walled border,
Taken a jug from the flower-room, and put them, just as they were,
(Giving them a little shake to free their plumage)
By the window, where a passing bee or butterfly may come.
'That is an old picture,' my friend said;
And I, 'How like the real world you and I remember.'
- For those same peaceful fields of vanished summer
Were spread alike for ladies of the castle
And for the niece of the village schoolteacher.
Fields, it is true, in the aftermath are still green,
Beeches turn brown, country flowers in unheeded gardens grow.
It is something else, we said, that will not come again,
That leisure, that ease of heart unsevered from its roots;
The things we thought about, some sweetness in the air, nuance
of educated English speech, libraries, country lanes;
Few cars; 'wireless' a cat's whisker and a piece of quartz
Boys fiddled with. But there was laughter,
Songs at the piano, the Golden Bough, the Spirit of Man;
Pressed flowers; how fondly we took civilisation for granted!
Bank's Head, October 1968. Shared with me by Karen Lord