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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

A Cycle of Love Poems by the Headmaster

In 1931, Hubert Barnes married Nora Tydeman, but it was apparent from the moment of the honeymoon that, sexually, the marriage was not going to be a success. Nevertheless, they stayed married until 1958. In 1932, Hubert began an affair with Constance Dart, which lasted until it was starved by petrol rationing in the war - by which time he had started a new affair with Mary, whom he married in 1958.

Hubert's Poems for Constance Dart, 1932

In a Motor Boat, Scilly, Whitsun, 1932
I watched the changing pattern of the sea ;
Saw the white sand
Green through its clarity,
Patterned across, where the tide's hand
Passed restless fingers through
The wavy leafage of the rocks,
By deeper blue.

Mind patterning mind, choice crossing taste,
Dear converse's leisure shot through by passion's haste,
And joy in laughter marked by sleep that calms
The body's fever in a lover's arms -
So gazing in the crystal of the sea
I saw in blue and green your love for me

Ford to Stow in the Blue Train, Sunday night
The dying leaves golden upon the roadside
Beneath the shafting of our hurrying light ;
The stars, the Plough, old Andromeda,
Hang in the eternity between the trees to-night.
Houses where men have loved and prayed and died,
Once golden, grey with age, cast back our light ;
The owl that Shakespeare heard in Arden
Hoots in the woods to-night.

Could we stop time and check it as I check
The car that carries us towards our bed – and night,
Then we would mock the stars that mock at lovers,
Put out their light as I put out the light.
Still round the darkness of our tiny covering
I hear the rush of the leaves' pattering feet,
I know that times goes on, goes on, dear lover,
That death and love must meet.

Yet I believe that we shall love forever
Within the dash board's failing light
Because within the circle of your arms, my Constance,
Time does standstill to-night.

Listening in, Wednesday Night
As 'thwart the thrusting wind and eddying rain,
November urgent on the trembling pane,
In clear and ruffled pattern is the calm
Design of music, heedless of the storm ;
So Con it seemed to-night our love should be
Athwart the storm of life, unfettered free

Daphne to laurel grew,
And Constance too
Above the roofs of London Town
Put off her black
And dons her green silk gown,
But not for me
As for Apollo
Changes to a tree.

Retrospect, November
Dear memories of the growing dusk,
The failing light, and tea
At half past four with crispy toast
In distant Banbury.

And how we climbed Stow's twinkling hill,
Through the October gloom,
The friendly chiming of the clock,
The firelight of our room.

The books we tried so hard to read,
The clothes behind the door,
Your new pyjamas in the bed,
The pillows on the floor.

The sound the brush made in your hair ;
Your powder puff. The line
Of your dear breasts beneath my mouth,
Your body kindling mine.

The scent your hair had with my lips
In the hollow of your eyes ;
The softness of your body
When I lay between your thighs.

The pounding of my heart on yours
Our bodies mingled deep.
Passion that ends in laughter,
Laughter that ends in sleep.

About 40 Years Later, by Constance Dart,  
 The Lonely Lady, at Uskadur

« Are you alone here, English lady ?
Where is your man ? »

I am not wed.

« You have a mouth for kissing, lady. »

When I was young one warmed my bed,
But he has fled.

« Lonely lady, no more lover,
Lady with bosom to rest a head. »

Later came one whose heart was weary ;
Came and rested his troubled head :
But he is dead.

« Lonely lady..... ? »

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Letter, 1947, from Nora to Hubert.

My dear Hu – This is my third attempt to find an adequate answer to your letter. Of course I have been most wretchedly unhappy. The simple happiness that most commonplace people seem to achieve so easily is quite beyond my reach. In being maimed myself I feel that I have hurt you. I really am not capable of being very objective about the matter at present. I do not think marriage without physical intimacy can possibly be considered as a permanent arrangement, and my own inadequacy in this respect has been made worse by the habitual insecurity of our relationship – the knowledge that I was always second best. I think I could have achieved a good and happy relationship of this kind with someone physically more suited to me, but we have clearly not so suited – that seems to be that. Bodily chemistry can upset all one's hopes and plans and good intentions. Also I feel now really tired with the conflict. It is true that I feel that I simply cannot make any more effort about it. And again, I am older than you – another bad mistake. We should have had the courage to separate years ago. It would have saved a great deal of suffering. What I have done for you – and I am glad I have done something – is what a good friend could have done. That is what we should have been. You on your part have opened my eyes to many things that would have passed me by – your love of beauty, your pleasure in simple natural things, your kindliness, all these things have become so much a part of my life my life and of me that I cannot imagine life without them – and how I shall miss your jokes. And in spite of the difficulties I shall terribly miss the only person who has ever come close to me. How much mere touch means – it comes before speech and is infinitely more reassuring. How cold life is without it. The incredibly insensitive harshness of my early life made me shrink from it – I could not trust it – that I suppose is at the core of my failure, so simple and yet so fundamental.
I shall not always feel so unhappy. Ordinary life breaks in and one cannot live at such a level, and there is no one here to talk about it – if I could bring myself to do so.
I already feel a little better for having said so much and the load of lead which has been on my chest for days is somewhat lighter. The trouble with me is that I cannot take things lightly, and I haven't the sort of sense of humour to cope with difficult problems like this.
You asked me : Did I want to sleep with you ? The answer is Yes a thousand times if only I could feel sure of your confidence in myself, but these two conditions are not satisfied and every time the sense of impending fiasco gets me down.
I don't think however long I go on writing I can get any further at the moment. What I want just now is your shoulder to cry on - and this is hardly a suitable letter to send to an invalid.
Yours lovingly, Nora.

Nora to Hubert, August, 1947

My dear, was glad to get our letter though I have not had time to answer it till now. Yes, of course, Hilary has been worthwhile. I have delighted in him, and in your companionship with him. He has satisfied maternity, but that is not the same thing as an adult relationship. You do not find fatherhood sufficient and no normal woman should find maternity sufficient – tho' she may have to, and perhaps then only in 'sublimated' form. I was too immature to form an adult relationship. I understood at 50 what I should have experienced at 20. However I do perhaps understand my own failure and I hope I shall not be crabbed about it.
All my love, Nora

Nora to Hubert, August, 1942

My dear Hu, Very many thanks for your letter – both parts. Women as you know get a peculiar satisfaction from having someone to look after even when they curse the bother ! I often realise when you are away par exemple how deadfully I should miss you and having to « do » for you, and also I feel dreadfully inadequate that I can't satisfy all of you. At the same time I don't seem to know any marriages where both partners are competely satisfied all round! There are supposed to be such. I know that you are fond of me and I of you and that we both love Hilary – and there is a whole lot of satisfaction in these three facts. I consider myself rich in many things – we all have to be poor in some I suppose.
We are all set for Tuesday [we were going for a holiday in Cornwall]. Hilary is nearly beside himself, as you can imagine. Sambo got acute distemper and I took him to Machin to be destroyed. Hilary is already planning to have a little girl kitten who will grow up into a muvver, and has added the festival of 'Nasty Friday' and 'Cash Wednesday'. Hilary Daniels controlled herself with difficulty when this came out at supper.....

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Two Poems by Nora Tydeman, address at the time 1 Lansdowne Road, Bedford, which probably dates them to her period as a school teacher between her London University English degree course and her later psychology degree course (to which students were not admitted until the first degree was followed by three years work experience). This suggests the poems were written in the early 1920s.

Once, the brown earth upturned between my feet,
There sprang within me, swift and passing sweet,
A pregnant thrust of life. The wild flower knows
That urgent quickening, and awakes, and grows.

And in that moment, I and the Earth were one :
I shared the secret of wind and sun,
And river; sang in my heart their song.
Knew Beauty to be Truth, and was made strong.

Sometimes I see no star within the night.
Behind the shadow no transfiguring light.
Thy wonder, Earth, is there, but dark to me :
Only the meek of heart inherit thee.
N. M. Tydeman

As you pass by, perhaps I shall be there,
And in my heart will spring a joy like pain,
To feel the sudden quickening in the air,
And know the swift, awakening touch again.

I have set sail upon Life's unknown sea :
I think where 'er I go that I shall find
The miracle that is a part of me.
Shall know all darkness has the sun behind.
N.M. Tydeman

[From a later collection of Nora's verse, this one probably from the 1970s]

Not Hungry, Only Starving
“No, I'm not hungry,”
Cries the old woman.
“No! I couldn't touch it.
Not without a touch of love.”

They bring me food to keep my body going.
It's only inside I am dying.
Silence fills the room through the telly's chatter.
That's what's the matter.

“If only you would share my cheese and soup
It would be bread and wine.”

* * * * * * * * *

Hubert's Poems for Mary Pierce, who became his lover in January, 1940, when they went for a walk on the Berkshire Downs near Streatley, and whom he finally married in 1958.

The Downs
I can recall our Downs in many colours,
Gay with bugloss, crowned with clouds in May,
In winter the trees dark above the furrows
Marked by powdered snow, and failing day
Touching the distant hills with gold as we retraced
Our footsteps through the dusk with fingers laced;
But more than colours that the days have lent
Does tour dark beauty give me my heart content.

The Garden
You came bearing flowers of spring, yet snow
Covered the garden in the light of morn.
We heard the clock chime, but there was no flow
Of song at dawn.

I felt you stir within my arms as light
Revealed to us the wallflower's golden flame,
And touch, the eye of darkness, changed to sight,
And spring was Queen again.

We saw the moon rise huge through summer's haze,
Paced linked on turf wet with summer's dew;
We kissed beneath the walnut's leafy maze
And pledged our love anew.

And now the rustling leaves tell of your presence,
You come to me beneath the autumn sky,
Chestnuts are bare, and yet the fir still whispers
'My love and I'.

'When Peace Returns'
When peace returns we will rebuild the pattern
Of life we used to know, for still I dream
Of country where we moved across the hills
To reach the sea and stood upon the rocks
As the sun sank, and went and came at will,
Passing the uncrowded days, the world forgot,
Without fear of expectation
The shallows greener seem, the deeps more blue,
The sand more warm to feet than sand we knew,
And only curlews call upon the marsh
When evening comes, where now the bomber's drone
Disturbs the silence.
Then I will carry in a haversack
Fruits from the isles of Italy and Greece,
Sweet Spanish grapes to press upon your lips,
Spreading our meal upon a granite slab
Among the heather, where the summits rise in blue
Across the sea mountains will call you, Mary,
For sloping meadows wait in flowery dress.
There my imagination walks beside you
To share the silence lovers make heir own.
Crossing war's barriers, even as a pilot,
Girdling like Ariel the narrow sea,
Is carried by a power infinite upward
Till, human distance vanquished, like an eagle
He sees the Alpine snows!

A Sonnet to Commemorate June 1st and June 2nd, 1941
A year ago on that June day we went
Over the windswept Downs and saw below
Across the patterned fields Avebury, pent
Within its earthwork ring. I loved you so
My heart sang, Mary. All things gave assent
To our linked arms and interlacing hands,
The cowslips danced, the fir trees sighed content.
I picked a sprig of fir to send you after
We had returned and left the Downs again,
This to recall our private world of laughter
Beside the twilight stream and blue-belled lane
In Sunday's warmth, in Monday's wind and rain.
To-day a year of water's passed the leat,
But like your spray our love is no less sweet.

The light has faded. Come, Oh come, dear lover,
And fill my heart which beats for your return.
The day is done that parts us from each other
For I have watched time pass and distance turn
To nearness.

The train has stopped. Persephone anew
You rise to greet me from the wintry earth,
And bring him riches who would always strew
Your ways with happiness. Affection, warmth,
Companionship and pleasures shared you bring,
Flowers and deep music, hills and trees in spring -
These in a narrow bed when you are there
Within the compass of your arms you bear.

Your steps are quick, and now upon the stair floor
Clear sounds the rhythm of your hurrying feet.
Our lives rejoin.
Oh Mary, this wide door
Through which you pass my welcoming lips to greet,
Stands as a symbol of the central core
Your body holds, through which I pass to meet
Your spirit joined to mine till both are one, complete.
5th December, 1942

The Emperor Concerto
Through the misty winter's gloom
Of a December afternoon
A thousand people sit in rows,
The violins sing, the woodwind blows,
And high above the trumpets blare,
Pianoforte fills the air,
Tracing among the lamps' high beam
The thread of an imperial theme,
Striding across the roof's great space
In lovely arabesques of grace.
Yet I confess I cannot see
The sound filled hall's immensity.
My kingdom here's a little space
Within your fingers' warm embrace.
Upon the stage the fiddles bow
In ordered movement to and fro;
At beck of the conductor's arm
The troubled rhythms sink to calm
Or in tempestuous courage state
The challenge of mankind to fate.

Oh lovely sound that can embrace
Such immaterial mystic grace!
Oh courage of a lofty mind
To triumph when the ear is blind!
Oh paradox that makes us free
Of crowded contiguity,
And in the midst of many men
Gives us our solitude again!
For here are only you and I
In face of Art's immensity.
For us alone the violins sing
Their treble accents echoing,
For us alone the airy maze
Is patterned to the trumpet's phrase,
For us alone the movements go
Andante to Adagio.
Linked thus together hand in hand
And listening so we understand
Through the concerto's soaring art
The secrets of the inmost heart.
Albert Hall, December 6th, 1942

'The Cowslips tall her pensioners be'
Only the vaulted fern in sight
To roof thee with viridian light;
The walls the stems, an endless forest;
Thy bed of ferns of last year's harvest.
Gay willow herb to deck thy house,
The squirrel and the rustling mouse
To watch with an incurious eye
The secrets of our ecstasy.
Here shall they heart enraptured be
And lover's arms encompass thee.
21st July, 1943

Albert Hall Promenade
High in the vault we live as in a dream;
Colour is quenched, people are silent shadows
With insubstantial footsteps, faces seem
As marks of bone or wood.

The eye looks through dim arches, yet I see
No object for the sight;
The hooded lamps throw down their beams,
I cannot trace their flight.

But love is not a dream; my arm shall hold you
Feeling your weight under its circling ring,
And as the music reaches upward to us
My heart shall awake and both our hearts shall sing!
February 20th, 1944

Lines on the Downs
Come climb the track between the flowering lime
To reach the bare high beacon on the hill,
To lie upon the turf whose scented thyme
Collects the bees to drink their hungry fill
Of wind blown nectar.
Here is distance, peace,
Lark song and peewit call, the sighing wind
Blown across the graves of ancient men
Long dead. The turbid city and the crowds,
The inhabitants of another world,
Are far away. But not as strangers here
We stand; the wind blown distances are yet
Familiar to us, and all that we behold
Gladdens us with memories of other years
We walked these hills together; in snow, in frost,
Across the plough in spring and through the harsh
Short spikes of autumn stubble; trudging home
Through growing mist, or seeing the round moon
Hung low upon the hills; nor strangers here
To one another do we wander still
In handfast love and quietness, knowing well
That all the beauty that we here perceive,
And all the pleasure of the downland scene,
Hereafter will inform our mutual joy.
June 30th, 1948

Six-Jeur to Fenestrale by the High Path
Symbol of life, the path climbs very high
Between the mountain and the lucent sky.
Then kiss! From busy village far below
The distance veil us. Here we truly know
Freedom from earthly care, a rising joy,
A lightening of the load of chore and ploy.

Though here's a tiny path, a hair to part
And cross the mountain side, yet in your heart
Secure I stand. Pause and reach down and feel
Our fingers grasp. Linked by their tender seal,
Still climbing, life will draw us on
From earthly places to the sky's high throne.
December 25th, 1952

Morning at Paddington
Though to-day we part our way,
You to work and I to play,
Images of warmth and joy
All live on. Still I employ
The tongue to touch, the hands to feel,
The lips the hidden eyes to seal,
The finger tips o'er skin to move
To trace the anteroom of love,
And muscles then to turn and lie
Where sword is sheathed
In ecstasy.
January 3rd, 1953

The Flowery Pilgrimage
Sweet chimonanthus greets the year
And soon the snowdrop spikes appear,
Pushing through the damp their way,
Jewel like upon the ear of day.
Within their moss-lined box they bring
Dear memories of wartime spring
And of the darkened city where
We made our journey to Cythère.
Red polyanthus thus fringed with green
Provide a posy for my queen.
The daffodils, narcissus too,
Recall the scents and joys of Kew,
Scattered like stars below the trees
In gardens of Hesperides.
Maytime the cowslips wave among
Long grasses by the lonely barn,
And tiny milkwort's azure eye
Repeats the blue of summer sky.
Picnics are here, then let us go
To saunter where azaleas grow,
Touch rhododendrons spotted lips
Where Cliveden's lawn to river slips.
Scented July will watch us climb
The lane all sweet with tasseled lime.
And when the autumn sun shines low,
About the copse's edge we go
To break the brittle spindle, red
With flame like glow above your bed.
Now winter's dark has come again,
Unfold the white coiffed cyclamen,
A group of nuns upon your shelves
They nod in talk among themselves,
But play that leads to Venus prone
They disapprove, nor look upon.
(With city violets and carnation
She's courted in another fashion!)

So let the flowers, my love, for you
Fresh pleasures bring and past renew.
February 6th, 1953

The Thimble
Tiny the gift, and yet the heart in choosing
Quickens its pace,
Imagines fingers moving
With dextrous grace.

Slender the finger yet its shell of steel
Defends, protects from harm;
Tender the heat yet not afraid to feel
In understanding's arms.

Outward the silver shines
In glittering form;
Inward the spirit lies
Secure and warm.

Empty the cup awaits
Fulfilment's finger;
Naked the body seeks
Complete surrender.
December 29th, 1953

The Veil of Ariadne
Accept, dear love, this silken rail
As soft as Ariadne's veil,
Which swirls, her beauty opening wide,
The curves one privacy to hide,
Like wind-filled sail.

When you put off your daytime dress,
Let this silk gown your skin caress,
As light as lips that gently pass
Across your brows, or breath on glass,
Nor less, nor less.

So by the veil's transparency
Your body's form revealed shall be,
And gossamer your grace express,
Adding to that fresh loveliness,
A lucency.

Your leaf-crowned Bacchus cannot fail
To draw back Ariadne's veil!
Translucent, yes, and light as lawn,
But to desire it sets a bourne,
A pale.

So think not through this gown he brings
He has no other offerings,
And keep your veil. This silken shift
His hand above your waist would lift
A furléd sail.
January 27th, 1954

The Wish
I want each day to be wcrowned by affection,
That heavenly gleam,
The wren going into the nest; and connection,
Walking hand in hand along paths with yew hedges
And under beech leaves in the spring. The green sedges
At the Chinese temple for tea,
And the scent of azaleas, and privacy, you and me
By the fire. Expectation and likeliness
Of your coming, and seeing you walk from the press
Of people, and leisure and time, and the feeling of continuousness.
February 7th, 1954

The Gifts of Ariadne – the Ring and Crown,
Life is a bond two-stranded – yours and mine -
Twisted about with seasons, days and years,
The pattern of our several weeks which twine
Like bedded lovers. Larks above, half heard,
On Down, and the flowered turf of summer; hares
Moving across the crescent corn in spring,
Wide spaces! Then your room, quiet and enclosed,
Serene with growing things; autumnal warmth
To cold; lamps haloed in the murk and winter's
Driving rain.
But always is the bond imperishable,
The proffered ring; the symbol, sign and key
Bacchus to Ariadne gave; and stars,
Th' experience by which our love is crowned,
The gift of Venus to the naked self,
As in the grave and sensuous art
Of Tintoretto.
Lechlade, May 12th, 1956

For Mary
Come, love, leave the throng and press
To share with me your separateness;
Walk through the dusty crowded street
To find our private, quiet retreat,
And in our room make the catch fast
Until the hours of night are passed.

What can I say, what can I do
Which can express my love for you?
What image can I use, what art
To tell the stirring of my heart?
My finger tip to trace your eye,
My lips that on your forehead lie,
My forearm for a pillow's stead
To bear the weight of your dear head!
The fears that gather as I press
My love, my lamb, my happiness!
Mary, dear heart, I have come home
And Plato's apple is at one.

The curtains show the light of day,
But our world's from the world away.
Newbury, April 15th, 1957

May Hill
Then I went up the path alone
And thought of all that we have done.

The meadows, moorland, Down and hill,
The purple mountains calm and still;
The buzzards mewing overhead,
The peewits on their earthy bed;
The hares swift-moving on their path,
The kettle boiling on nits hearth.
Our England's beauty, which we found
In stone, in colour, sky and sound;
Her houses, churches, houses – all
Her legacy historical.

The Alpine peaks with icy crown,
The saffron in the meadow strown:
The mountain valleys far from men,
That we have sought and found again.
The heights achieved for which we strove
To add new facets to our love.

“Then, tell me, what is wealth?” I asked,
As through my mind the memories passed.
'To hear upon this autumn hill
The sound of your voice calling still:
And faith which knows that you will come
However far I am from home.'
October 9th, 1957

You are the memory of a hundred joys,
Joys because you were there,
Illumined, sunset golden
Free from care.

You are the rainbow in the sky,
The cowslip in the grass,
The secret combe; across the hills,
The hidden pass.

As noon walks on the Downs,
The ascending lark;
At dusk the incised trail,
Out-staring dark.

You are the enclosed place,
The answer found,
The heart of stillness
And the trumpet's sound.

You are Demeter's earth,
Myth deep, alive,
To nourish, warm enfold,
And man revive.

Your are my journey's end;
As pilgrim shrine,
My spirit urgent, faithful,
Seeking thine.
Droitwich, December, 1957

To Mary, with gratitude and love
Bed-bound and weary here I lie,
But watch the trees against the sky.
Tied by the legs, I can yet see
The sunset's dying pageantry.
The water, brought from far away,
Speaks to me always of that day
In Elan's valley, where we stood
Clasped arm in arm to watch its flood.
Westward wind, which agitates the trees,
Tells me of other scenes than these!
The sheep-cropped turf, the mountains black,
The torrents and the climbing track.
Oh Mary by your love give me
The faith to hope one day to see
The buzzards circling o'er the moor,
The curlews calling from the shore.
Woodlands Hospital, Birmingham, February 21st, 1958
[The author, following a particularly severe attack of sciatica, was lying in bed with weights on the end of his legs, being stretched in order to release a pinched sciatic nerve. It was a long and extremely unpleasant treatment, but it worked. He never had trouble with sciatica again)

A New Land
Over the close turf of the curving down
Where the hares chased and played in windy March
We wandered hand in hand for the brief hours
We had together.
Below us in the gap the winding Thames,
Broad and majestic from the Cliveden heights,
Was terrace-crowned; or beech-topped Wittenham climbed
We saw the Ridgeway's line.

But now our land is changed. The little streams
Crossing the wolds, Windrush and Evenlode,
The orange ploughlands gleaming wet in spring,
Houses and churches alchemized to gold,
The lights below us in the return at night,
Tells us of home.
Yet still we bring to our new land two hearts
That have not changed and still possess their past.
Adlestrop, Christmas, 1960

The Swallows

The wolds are sleeping wrapped in grey
Under the wintry sky,
The Sun moves low at noon to where
The day will early die.

I cannot bring the swallos back
Before the cowslips blow;
I cannot warm your hand with mine
If both are chilled with snow.

So I will hang a token where
It will foretell the spring
And warm you heart with thoughts of May
And swallow on the wing.
Adlestrop, Christmas, 1963

For Mary on January 24th twenty three years later

Hold to the past! We cannot go
Beyond its ebb and flow.
We only certainly possess
Experience's gold, impress
Of courage long ago.

He: Oh let me lie against our breasts
And see the mountains' sunset crests
Above the fields of snow.
My hand along your curving though
Traces the Down against the sky
And gently rests below.

He: Upon her quilt of green and red
Is stretched Demeter on her bed.
High high above her from the air
I see the secret places clear,
And as I move across the sky
Rise up her mountains swellingly.
Thus as you stir below beneath
I feel your every inward breath.

She: Then fly the Gulf. On either hand,
A goddess' limbs, the mountains stand.
And in between the cobalt space
The pointed ships incise their trace,
Steering to find the narrow water
Which leads to Acrocorinth's daughter,
A deep-cut, martin-haunted strait,
Symbol of Aphrodite's gate .
Outside we lie divided, twain;
Then enter, lover, and be one again!
Adlestrop, 1963

An Empty House

The house is empty. On the bed Badger sleeps
Keeping the light out with one black paw.
The garden is quiet too apart from the noise
Of the leaves in the wind.
Ring the bell. Is anyone there?
Yes, we are there for this is our house.
Our spirit nourished, loved and cherished it.
Long View, Nether Westcote, Radcliffe Infirmary, 1967

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