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Oh Brother…

November 7, 2015

Back in March, Maureen and I attended a Cross-Border Poets workshop at Erddig, the historic country home near Wrexham, now in the ownership of the National Trust.  The day commenced with a conducted tour of the house and gardens, which we enjoyed very much.  Of course we both wrote poems about this wonderful place, so steeped in fascinating history.  The following is one of mine and takes the form of an imaginary address by the last squire, Philip Yorke III, to his deceased elder brother, Simon Yorke IV…

OH BROTHER…

.

Wherever you are now,

you’ll always be young in my heart,

Brother.

.

You were the lad I larked with,

sparred with,

rode with,

threw snowballs at

in those distant days when proud indeed

was this, our ancestral home,

Erddig.

.

Yes, even as the wild wind blows,

walls cracked,

rainwater sluicing through leaky roofs,

South Wing subsiding with mining below;

yes, even as I clutch this disabled shotgun

in my cold camp bed,

no one to answer my bell,

this I will allow:

grand times we had as boys, Simon,

when young this century was too.

.

But the squire you made, when came your time,

was a sorry excuse, to be sure.

Guts, gumption and the common touch lacking,

you made instead a curmudgeonly recluse,

venturing forth but occasionally

with gingerbreads in your pocket…

.

Tomorrow, crows by the dozen

will croak with derision

as I sign this place away,

this place of priceless treasures,

of memories and decay –

Erddig,

our ancestral home.

.

A sorry pass, true,

but not entirely down to you –

hardly, with two world wars along the way:

this I will allow.

.

And wherever you are now,

Brother,

young in my heart you will always be.

.

Paul Beech

Copyright © Paul Beech 2015

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4 Comments
  1. Hi Paul. When I saw the title “Oh Brother” in my inbox, I was afraid that something may had happened to your brother, but after reading the description, I was relieved.
    I enjoyed your poem, and I am inspired as to how you gain inspiration from an area and its history.
    Well done, my friend.

    • Dear Lita, so good to hear from you. Another poem I wrote about Erddig is a scary haibun entitled ‘The Wolf’s Den’ about Hugh d’Avranches (c1047 – 1101), a Norman overlord who became the First Earl of Chester. So ruthless was he in supressing the Welsh that he became known as ‘Hugh the Wolf’ – ‘Hugh Lupus’. In the poem I assume the persona of a fire-and-brimstone preacher exorcising his evil spirit!

      Really, in a place so beautiful and atmospheric as Erddig, a poet cannot but be inspired. If you’d been with Maureen and I, you’d have written good poems too and probably read them at the Apple Festival held at Erddig last month, as we did.

      I hope all is well with you Stateside.

      Ever your friend,

      Paul

  2. The phrase “make history come alive” is a cliché, and yet I want to say that’s exactly what you do here, very well. You turn the dry facts into a human relationship that one can sympathize with and understand. I bet more youngsters would be interested in history, if poets got hold of the stories more often. Very nice, Paul!

    • Dear Cynthia, thank you so much. You have perfectly summarised my intentions with this poem. Rita Dove, in her recent lecture at Liverpool University (which I attended with Maureen), explained how poets can reinvigorate history through imaginative reconstruction revealing the emotional truth behind the facts. If, in ‘Oh Brother,’ I’ve pulled this off in some small way, then I’m very pleased.

      Take care,

      Paul

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