Joseph Wright of Derby Cave at Evening

Joseph Wright of Derby Sir Brooke Boothby 1781
Joseph Wright of Derby  Sir Brooke Boothby  1781

Sir Brooke Boothby

Gerda Mayer

Sir Brooke, reclining by a brook,
How punningly your lines flow
Beside your  namesake. Time has changed
The leaves to autumn overhead.
You clasp Rousseau.

And all your nature’s heraldry
Is here set out. It is your look –
Voluptuous, thoughtful, quizzical,
Has puzzled me for many years,
Beloved Sir Brooke.

Two years ago they cleaned you up.
Still sensuous, you leer the less;
No longer the seducer but
Hinting of sorrows yet to come,
And pensiveness.

Yet still amused, – you scrutinize
Me as intently as I you.
Dumpy and old, I’ve fared the worse.
Will others come when I am gone,
Or be as true?

My very sparkling Brooke, we are
Two centuries and Styx apart.
Yet mirror-imaged our loss
(Your child, my father) and we share
A love for art.

It would be pleasant if we were
Among the leaves so juxtaposed –
You on the left, I on the right –
That you would flow above me when
The book was closed.

Joseph Wright of Derby A Cottage on Fire

Gerda Mayer was born in Karlsbad, Czechoslovakia, in 1927 and came to England in 1939. Her publications include Monkey on the Analyst’s Couch, a Poetry Book Society recommendation (Ceolfrith Press, 1980), The Candy-Floss Tree, an anthology for young people (with two others: Oxford University Press, 1984) and A Heart Ache of Grass (Peterloo Poets, 1988)

note: The picture was surface cleaned in 1982 which made it altogether lighter but removed Sir B.B’s rather rakish appearance. Sir Brooke Boothby is said to have been ‘a minor poet, a patron of the arts, and a friend of… Rousseau’. He wrote poems entitled ‘Sorrows’ on the death of his only child Penelope who died at the age of five.

Joseph Wright of Derby Cave at Evening
Joseph Wright of Derby Cave at Evening