They will endure beyond our vanishing;
And they will never know that we have gone.
"Well, of course!" most of us would say. But it is a sobering thought nonetheless. Off we go into the ether, leaving all these things behind. I won't presume to invest them with life. But I cannot help but think that they continue to carry with them some trace of those who have departed.
Evan Charlton (1904-1984), "Hotel Garden"
Like a dream recurring
this house where trees crowd in
by the bend of a stream
pampas whispering in the rain;
through darkling rooms
press beautiful people
and avid fingers
are turning over and over
the delicate riches of old neighbours.
'Not friends, no, not friends,
or we wouldn't be here.
They have gone away now
(we mean they are dead)
leaving behind them
these Venetian lustres,
thick ropes of amber,
snuff boxes, netsukes, cream jugs, miniatures,
and that little French clock.
These delectable morsels
we coveted whenever we dined
at this dull cold house
can be Ours now, Ours. . . .'
'But the books, alas, are stained
and have been read too often'
(maybe far into the night
assuaging tears dropped down on them
that would explain the pity of it)
'they are no use now to Us
nor to anyone.'
Joan Barton (1908-1986), A House Under Old Sarum: New and Selected Poems (Harry Chambers/Peterloo Poets 1981).
I have nothing against estate sales. But when I attend one I feel that I am intruding. I understand that the erstwhile owners are "sleeping at last, the trouble and tumult over." But I feel their lives hovering about the objects on display. Not in a spooky way, but in a bittersweet way.
And then the thought arrives: So this is what it comes to. These things. The thought comes without condescension (believe me), for I know that it will be exactly the same for me one day: a few objects on a card table.
Evan Charlton, "The Intruder"
In an Auction Room
How many deaths and partings spilled
this jumble in an upper room;
and every chair or mirror filled
with elbowing and smell of lives:
of this tall wardrobe stopped the sun
entering a home; the great brass bed
stood in its throne-room, and its springs
and shining arms are crammed like mines
with regal illness and with love:
the terrible settee
with worn red flowers, the table de nuit,
the picture with the little man
walking the infinite road
to a West of gold;
these have all been (and are to be)
loves truer than our human mould,
or desperate walls
flung up against the shock of things,
what has no name; or growing old.
Bernard Spencer, Aegean Islands and Other Poems (1946).
Evan Charlton, "Hotel, River and Ruins" (c. 1980)