Here is the 27th poem in my 52-poem sequence (one a week) for 2013, followed by some illumination and reflection:
I cannot find the sylvan views
forgotten sunsets will not light the way
to where our happiness once waited
but would not stay
my father and I both are children lost
in dead summers where we cannot play
and yet they burn me and I cannot sleep
tonight, while raindrops on the roof
ring softly as the half-remembered footfalls
of the child that was
who ran down pathways since overgrown
towards what destiny he could not guess
the magic waned, the fire burned low
great days rose up and fell and died
we did not mourn them, because we did not know.
Slightly more sentimental fare than my usual. I think I wrote this for my late father, one summer night after a rare evening of harmony between him and my eldest brother, as we looked back on our childhoods. I suppose I was slightly channelling the dreaded A.E Housman in this poem, the sort of work my father’s generation admired a little too much. A sort of literary equivalent of Jack Vettriano. Within reason however, the ‘style’ in which any poem or art is wrapped up in is forgivable, provided the core content has something truthful and useful to say about life.
The title (and indeed the poem) was sparked off by my father coming back into the room and announcing “I can’t seem to find ‘The Sylvan Views’”. This was a book in his collection that he was looking for that night. He never found it, and I can find no record on the web of such a book or what it might have shown. Photographs of forests perhaps, or somebody’s poetic recollection of such things. It struck me as he said it, as a statement which taken out of context would have metaphoric power.
I posted a copy of the poem a week later to my father and he was overjoyed, not least because I so seldom responded to his frequent letters.
For illustration, my brother Ally’s painting “The Song Of Innocence” (inset above) seems a spot-on choice. Same childhood, same summer.
I’m also going to include the wonderful painting below (‘Fisherman’s Hut’) by the Norwegian artist Harald Sohlberg. I discovered this painting through John Burnside’s latest novel “A Summer Of Drowning” which discussed it at enough length to make me curious.