image borrowed from tess kinkaid
“Did the Warwickshire militia teach the Irish to drink beer,
or did they learn from the Irish how to drink whiskey?”
My beloved pipe-smoking grandfather,
on my father’s side, never lost his British
accent, & he never tired of telling we
grandchildren wonderful stories of his youth
in Warwickshire, a county in the West Midlands;
always proud of the fact that he had grown up
in a county that had been the birthplace of
Shakespeare & George Eliot.
He had a framed lithograph hanging in the living
room, all bright reds & yellows, depicting the County
flag, an upright bruin wearing a thick collar, chained
to a tall stump, bristling with amputated branch stubs--
symbolic, said Gramps, of the ancient forest of Arden,
that was clear-cut during the industrial revolution.
He lived in Warwick, and the young woman he loved,
Mary Lou Gibbs, lived fifty miles away in Henley-in-Arden.
Queen Victoria was still on the throne in 1899, when
my grandfather, a callow youth of 17, sent a love letter
to the young lady, who later was to become our
She had kept that letter, and he was fond of bringing
it out to show us how precious it was; 1900 was the
postmark date marked over a one penny Queen Vic
stamp, all black & pink.
The letter contained a love poem, we were told, but
he would never read it to us; only after he died in 1977,
did my father let me read it; Beauty and Beauty by
Rupert Brooke. I still recall part of the first verse:
When Beauty and Beauty meet
All naked, fair and fair,
The earth is crying sweet,
And scattering bright the air;
I’ve always wanted to travel to Britain
and visit Warwickshire; especially to see
the Grand Union Canal that extends navigation
north of the river Avon, from Stratford to Warwick--
and see in person those hundreds of brightly
colored narrow boats that are moored along it.
In the interim, I have become the family custodian
of the Love Letter,
& I do enjoy staring at it on quiet Sundays, swearing
that I can actually hear the river bubbling over the weir,
& church belles ringing all over the shire.
Posted over at the MAG 194
Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?