I have always loved Queen Elizabeth’s description of herself as ‘mere English’. Never was a character less mere! Since last week’s invitation to thumbnail a portrait from two names failed to bring any volunteer out of the shadows, or put down his/her pint for long enough, I have decided to reverse the process. If this poem evokes a person (and it did describe one, originally) why not give him/her a name? If not, I hope you just enjoy this very un-Elizabethan character, who could well find a place in Trollope or Austen, or Henry James, but would be un-noticed by George Eliot!
You would not care for Africa, you say;
the narrowness of mind that travel brings…
No persuasion had you venture forth
from Dorset and her soft enclosing hills.
‘Why precipitate adventure when instead
monotony so benignly passes time?
Why think, when thought pricks restlessness
or worse, provokes an impulse to the day?’
The winds of soft-stirred longing which arose
were raiment of an English tempered muse.
Metered music and the symmetry of stone…
The dim glimmer of a chancel, summoning…
Were all the pulse allowed the dying risk of age.
No oceans all engraved with serpent coils…
Terror incognita, (I know it well…)
The map but not the diction: Heavens, names and foreign foods!
the spaces better blank to seed with certain platitudes.