Tuesday, 2 August 2011

In a Future Country Churchyard...

06:00:00 Posted by Lara Clayton , , , , , 4 comments

Hundreds of headstones – in various types of stone – surround me. An oak stretches its branches and casts shadows. Here, here where I’ll eventually lie. Its bareness filled with vertical granite, turned-over soil and a single bunch of flowers (tied with yellow ribbon).

It is here, in this future country churchyard, that somebody walks over my future grave. Cold creeps from my lower back, picks its way up my spinal column and shivers on my shoulders. My body hunches, shoes leave an impression in the soil, and I shudder.

The book sits on the coffee table. It contains more than twenty poems by twenty different poets. But only one of the poems is able to make me shiver. Only one prompts me to say, Someone walked over my grave...

In case you haven’t already guessed, the poem is Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray.

The first four stanzas of this poem found their way into my Nan’s memory book. A young Grandpa transcribed them. He remembered Gray’s lines – as best he could – and shared them. A girl (who would eventually become his wife) kept them.

When I was younger (before the age of seven), my Grandpa would recite a piece of writing to me. I didn’t know what it was called, or who wrote it... When he died, the words gradually slipped from my mind until it was black ink on black paper. I forgot about the piece of writing that my Grandpa used to recite. I forgot in the same way as you forget about the times when you grazed a knee or elbow. I forgot because I was too young to realise I needed to remember.

On a rainy Devon day during the summer holidays, my Nan brought out an old, battered book. Her memory book. I was twelve years old... It was first poem to make me shiver. It was the first poem to make cry.

Thank you for reading,



Ashley R Lister said...

This made me shiver too.


vicky ellis said...

It's strange to discover the context of bits of song and rhyme that grandparents and parents uttered around you when you were young.

My mum used to sing a song to me when I was little. In her bedroom there was a painting of two little birds in a tree. I thought she had made up the song to go with the painting, just like the stories she made up about little mice and rats. I later found out that it was a Eurovision entry!

She would have been 11 when this was on television so it's sweet that it stuck in her head all that time.

Thanks for sharing Lara :) x

Lindsay said...

I'm going to have to find the rest of the poem now out of curiousity, I've not heard it before. So sweet that it was written in your grandma's memory book, perhaps it effected your grandad the same way as yourself for it to stick with him, and you can pass it on. Thanks Lara, very emotional piece. x

Lara Clayton said...

Thank you for the kind comments. It was the first thing that popped into my mind when I saw this week's theme.
Lindsay, I have put a link to the whole poem in my post. If you click on the title of the poem it should take you to a site that has it... Be warned, it is a rather long poem.