John Crome Norwich River Afternoon

John Crome The Poringland Oak
John Crome ‘The Poringland Oak’

The Lond and Lovely Summers

Vernon Scannell

How long and lovely were the summers then,
Each misted morning verdant milk, until
The sun blurred through, at first a pallid wen
Beneath the sky’s bland skin and then, still pale,
A swollen, silvery dahlia-head, before
It burned to gold on laundered gentian blue.

At noon the picnic by the waterfall,
The bright behavior of the butterflies
Interpreting the light; the plover’s call
Above the rhyming flowers, the sun-baked pies
Of cow-pats, fossilized, antique; the cool
Shades of chestnuts, little pools of night.

Night: frosted mathematics of the stars;
Homages of fragrances; the moon,
Curved kukri-blade of ice; the green guitars
And soft soprano breeze conspired to croon
Late lullabies that soothed us into dream
And on to dawn which new delights would spice.

Things are different now. The seasons mock
What expectations we may entertain.
No, things are not like that – and, taking stock,
It seems they never were. Did not grey rain
Stop play? Storms follow drought? A child was drowned.
In close-up, river nymphs were coarse and fat.

And yet we still remember them – the long
And lovely summers, never smeared or chilled –
Like poems, by heart; like poems, never wrong;
The idyll is intact, its truth distilled
From maculate fact, preserved as by the sharp
And merciful mendacities of art.

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Thames near Walton Bridges
Joseph Mallord William Turner The Thames near Walton Bridges

Vernon Scannell was born in 1922. During the Scond World War het served with the Gordon Highlanders. In 1960 he received the Heinemann Award for Literature and in 174 the Cholmondeley Poetry Prize. Recent publications (all from Robson Books) include New and Collected Poems (1980), Winterlude (1982) Funeral Games and other Poems (1987), A Time for Fires (1991) and Ring of Truth, a novel (1983), and his autobiographical The Tiger & the Rose was reprinted in 1984.

John Crome Norwich River Afternoon