Diary of the Plague Year: Day 57 11 May 2020: Wildflowers on my Walk

I finally issued forth on a walk today. I am not exactly a keep-fit fanatic and my vow of walking every day has flown out of the window. Since my previous walk the wildflowers are in lush profusion. The scent from the rose was heady. Walking along the verges was soft and mossy underfoot.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 57 11 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Keith Douglas (1920-1944)

STRANGE GARDENER
 
Over the meadows
framed in the quiet osiers, dreams the pond
region of summer gnat-busyness
and in the afternoon’s blue drowsiness
plops among the water shadows
and the cool trees wait beyond.
 
A young man lived there
with a swift, sad face, and full of phantasy
repeating as he heard it
the alliterative speech of the water spirit
smoothing his pale hair
with automatic ecstasy.
 
This was his garden
Uncultivated (order hated him)
whence (in a winter madness
whose scourge drove him to recklessness)
seeing the frost harden
the water spirit translated him.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 57 11 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Keith Douglas (1920-1944)

Today’s poet is Keith Douglas who died in WWII at the age of 24.

I remember being in an English Literature class with Miss Hahn. We were reading his poem Vergissmeinnicht. In the poem he uses the phrase “the swart flies move”. None of us had a clue what the word “swart” meant. It means black. It was one of those moments when you are young and suddenly realise that language is something other than this utilitarian thing and there is a whole other way of describing the world, more akin to music. The poem I have chosen to post today was written when he was 15. I will post another of his tomorrow. One of the late poems.

Meanwhile, this is a very interesting and very moving account of his work and life, by Owen Sheers, a fellow poet, and playwright. His play, Unicorns, Almost, was on R4 the other day. Very enjoyable. It’s on Sounds for the next 29 days.

Here is another film – about Douglas and Alun Lewis – the quality is not great but worth watching just to hear poet Tom Paulin read.

And here is Clive James reading Canoe:

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 56 10 May 2020: Mowing again

I feel the garden sometimes tells me what to do – whatever I decide to do, it means doing a lot with very little. It means using my imagination as I simply cannot afford to go mad buying plants. The tension between order and anarchy is something that I love and is something that occurs in my work as well as in the garden. I love the contrast between a sharply mown line and blowsy wildflowers. It feels like doing earth art, drawing in the grass. I have mown a semicircle with a wildflower bed surrounded by a path. I may plant a tree there or one of the white hydrangea cuttings I am growing in pots. I also put cardboard – to stop grass growing around the roots – around the trees and shrubs by the wall. Planning another cherry tree in the corner. And another tree by the boiler-shed.

Lots of little wildflowers are appearing as well as much more clover than last year.

Unbelievably, I need more lawn seed.