The moments return, unaccountably, unbidden, in brilliant clarity. The days and years drop away. Ah, yes. So that was my life. You may have known this at the time. If so, you are fortunate. Or you may come to know it only as a heart-catching pang of recognition -- distant, long-lost, but better late than never.
The Ash Grove
Half of the grove stood dead, and those that yet lived made
Little more than the dead ones made of shade.
If they led to a house, long before they had seen its fall:
But they welcomed me; I was glad without cause and delayed.
Scarce a hundred paces under the trees was the interval --
Paces each sweeter than sweetest miles -- but nothing at all,
Not even the spirits of memory and fear with restless wing,
Could climb down in to molest me over the wall
That I passed through at either end without noticing.
And now an ash grove far from those hills can bring
The same tranquillity in which I wander a ghost
With a ghostly gladness, as if I heard a girl sing
The song of the Ash Grove soft as love uncrossed,
And then in a crowd or in distance it were lost,
But the moment unveiled something unwilling to die
And I had what most I desired, without search or desert or cost.
Edward Thomas, The Annotated Collected Poems (edited by Edna Longley) (Bloodaxe Books 2008).
Duncan Grant (1885-1978), "Girl at the Piano" (1940)
"The way leads on . . . The road leads on." "Does the road wind up-hill all the way?/Yes, to the very end." Life is a journey. We've heard that often. Yet it is a few brief intervals of lucent stillness that ultimately stay with us. "Scarce a hundred paces under the trees was the interval." Evanescent. But enough. An aspect of eternity.
On the Road
Our roof was grapes and the broad hands of the vine
as we two drank in the vine-chinky shade
of harvest France;
and wherever the white road led we could not care,
it had brought us there
to the arbour built on a valley side where time,
if time any more existed, was that river
of so profound a current, it at once
both flowed and stayed.
We two. And nothing in the whole world was lacking.
It is later one realizes. I forget
the exact year or what we said. But the place
for a lifetime glows with noon. There are the rustic
table and the benches set; beyond the river
forests as soft as fallen clouds, and in
our wine and eyes I remember other noons.
It is a lot to say, nothing was lacking;
river, sun and leaves, and I am making
words to say 'grapes' and 'her skin.'
Bernard Spencer, With Luck Lasting (Hodder and Stoughton 1963).
Duncan Grant, "The Doorway" (1929)