I find myself surrounded now By millions drenched in pure nostalgia – One hundred per cent proof against The world they see as forced upon them – For a time and country they never knew That like Arcadia or Atlantis Is all the more beguiling For never having been. Their wish to rewrite and rewind our history And fervent fealty to their imagined glory Have won for them the crown and flag I used to see as mine as well And in so doing made a shell-shocked fiction Of all I thought I knew. And so I will allow myself A little longing of my own For another life I never lived And, had it been handed to me then Would probably have refused As one too frightened, small, suburban For something so grand, hard-edged, expansive. So permit me a moment’s misty-eyed Far-back-reaching, sadly sighing Regret for all I never was And in all honesty, humility and likelihood Never could have been.
Me: So. What makes a good and worthy life? My best friend just looks at me With fond, pitying eyes that plainly say What kind of question is that? Please. I need to know. OK. First, eat. Anything and everything put before you. Plus whatever you can find. You may surprise yourself. Then sleep. Dream. Find the warm spots. Let others envy your repose, so instant and complete. Yet always be ready to respond. There is promise in every sound and movement. You just never know. Ignore the stick, the ball, the bird: Mere distractions, unworthy of your speed and skill. Not so the cat, the rabbit: Always engage with your true work. For you will have your day. And those I meet? Some will reach out, some recoil. Learn when to press for friendship, and when to walk away. What are my watchwords? Loyalty without subservience. Courage without recklessness. Fierceness without savagery. To sum up, then… Live enormously. Love immoderately. Serve unfailingly. Be adored, remarkable, irreplaceable. And is that enough? I ask. My best friend’s eyes are laughing now. You tell me.
Their greatest fans, of which I’m one, would readily concede that whippets aren’t the brightest dogs in the world – they’re born to run, not to think – but like all canines, they know a thing or two about living. Even an example as irredeemably obtuse as our beloved Viggo is consistently in tune with what’s truly important in a way I never seem able to maintain. How I envy his simple outlook, uncomplicated moral code and serene, untroubled mind, especially in times like these. N.
All voices mute. All books closed. And so I took myself into the hills Wandered among the woods and fields To tap the wisdom of the world.
Seek my silence, said the land. Breathe my air. Watch the shadows cross my face, the trees bend with the wind. Understand my deeper workings But never let your knowledge close the door on wonder.
Follow the roll of stars and seasons, The great wheel turning in the earth. Plough, sow and harvest; but guard the goodness in you. The sin is not in lying fallow, but working gifted ground to dust.
Feel my bones beneath your feet. Be that bulwark for those you love. And as time and fortune wear and shape you Be shot through with truths as hard as flints That strike sparks, blunt blades, outlast events and weather.
I want to write
Not to have written.
Better to bite
Than to get bitten.
Forget I ran:
See how I run;
What counts is can
Not could have done.
It’s about the ride
Not where you’ve ridden;
When you’ve nothing to hide
Nothing gets hidden.
For all I’ve seen,
What am I seeing?
So much I’ve been
What am I being?
The one who makes
Or one who made
Wrong calls, mistakes
A mark, the grade?
Time to look ahead
Not back, because
The older I get
The better I was.
There might be one;
What happens next:
I am strong enough.
What I could become:
I can change;
Where I’ll lay my hat:
Somewhere is home;
Who is left:
Or how and where this ends:
It too shall pass.
I walked the woods, where Spring at last bestirred
Herself with bright abandon. All around
Bluebells and windflowers gleamed, and every bird
Rejoiced in lusty song. Then came the sound
Of angry scolding overhead: a coarse
And ragged band of brigands in full cry
As one by one, they swooped and swirled to force
The noble, broad-winged buzzard from their sky.
And thus when I, too, seek release in flight
Or silent solitude, the world’s dark woes
Rise up in loud pursuit, grant no respite
And crowd in, mobbing me like churlish crows.
How many years and miles before I find
A place to rest to my weary heart and mind?
Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary last Saturday has led to this sudden outbreak of sonnets; old and familiar ground, I know, but it’s still my favourite form to work with, and just feels right at this time of year. That said, spring is showing recidivist tendencies this week, with a bitter northerly pegging temperatures in single digits (C) and leaving the flowers wondering if they’ve accidentally skipped a few pages in their diaries. N.