HOUSE OF REST
Now all the world she knew is dead
In this small room she lives her days
The wash-hand stand and single bed
Screened from the public gaze.
The horse-brass shines, the kettle sings,
The cup of China tea
Is tasted among cared-for thing
Ranged round for me to see—
Lincoln, by Valentine and Co.,
Now yellowish brown and stained,
But there some fifty years ago
Her Harry was ordained;
Outside the Church at Woodhall Spa
The smiling groom and bride,
And here's his old tobacco jar
Dried lavender inside.
I do not like to ask if he
Was "High" or "Low" or "Broad"
Lest such a question seem to be
A mockery of Our Lord.
Her full grey eyes look far beyond
The little room and me
To village church and village pond
And ample rectory.
She sees her children each in place
Eyes downcast as they wait,
She hears her Harry murmur Grace,
Then heaps the porridge plate.
Aroused at seven, to bed by ten,
They fully lived each day,
Dead sons, so motor-bike-mad then,
And daughters far away.
Now when the bells for Eucharist
Sound in the Market Square,
With sunshine struggling through the mist
And Sunday in the air,
The veil between her and her dead
Dissolves and shows them clear,
The Consecration Prayer is said
And all of them are near.
I'm a big Betjeman fan, and you can read about my reasons for being so in this post from 2006. He's one of the poets I knew I would include in this series when I started it, but I hadn't read him for a while and didn't remember any specific poem worthy of special notice. And then of course when it came time to pick one there wasn't much time, so I just opened up the book (Collected Poems of) and read at random. This one seemed pretty ordinary until the last stanza.
All the links in that old post seem to be dead, by the way. Twelve years is a long time on the Internet.
--Mac is the proprietor of this blog.