Sunday, 13 May 2012

My garden

It turns out that my garden at 21 Well Road will be quite literary. The pavement engraved with lines from  a 16th century French poem is now nearly laid. The poem by Joachim du Bellay 'Heureux qui, comme Ulysse' celebrates life lived as an adventure comparable to that of Ulysses and Jason and the Argonauts' quest for the Golden Fleece. Then, in old age, to satisfy the yearning to come home and live in peace  near one's loved ones. This gravel garden area will be planted with olive and bay trees to reflect the classical theme. The area beyond was a problem until yesterday afternoon, when, lying on a swing seat in the garden next door to mine, I saw the wonderful possibilities of a play pirate ship, currently sharing space with a shed and trampoline. I asked the owners and users of the pirate ship if they would mind it it were moored in my garden, to which they will have access through a gate in their hedge. The transfer was approved, and the pirate ship, repainted black, will now be the central feature of the area beyond the gravel garden. White flowers will be planted as 'foam' at the prow, and the colour theme of the circle surrounding the ship (mirroring the pavement) will be blue and green to suggest the sea. The literary inspiration for this area of the garden is James Elroy Flecker's poem The Old Ships, written just before his death, aged 30, from tuberculosis,  in 1915.

I have seen old ships sail like swans asleep
Beyond the village which men still call Tyre,
With leaden age o'ercargoed, dipping deep
For Famagusta and the hidden sun
That rings black Cyprus with a lake of fire;
And all those ships were certainly so old -
Who knows how oft with squat and noisy gun,
Questing brown slaves or Syrian oranges,
The pirate Genoese
Hell-raked them till they rolled
Blood, water, fruit and corpses up the hold.
But now through friendly seas they softly run,
Painted the mid-sea blue or shore-sea green,
Still patterned with the vine and grapes in gold.
But I have seen,
Pointing her shapely shadows from the dawn,
An image tumbled on a rose-swept bay,
A drowsy ship of some yet older day;
And, wonder's breath indrawn,
Thought I - who knows - who knows - but in that same
(Fished up beyond Aeaea, patched up new
- Stern painted brighter blue -)
That talkative, bald-headed seaman came
(Twelve patient comrades sweating at the oar)
From Troy's doom-crimson shore,
And with great lies about his wooden horse
Set the crew laughing, and forgot his course.
It was so old a ship - who knows, who knows?
- And yet so beautiful, I watched in vain
To see the mast burst open with a rose,
And the whole deck put on its leaves again.

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