As we walk up the steep driveway, stopping
for breath at the curve where the castle
comes into sight – raised to block the routes
through the Dee Valley and Glyn Ceiriog
to starve the Welsh – a beribboned Rolls
descends, bride waving, followed, on foot,
by the wedding party in straggles –
black suits and brown shoes, wispy wedding hats –
treading the incline with tipsy effort.
‘The radio and the telephone
And the movies that we know
May just be passing fancies,
And in time may go!’
George Gershwin, born Jacob Gershovitz,
the second son of Russian immigrants,
ex song plugger in Tin Pan Alley
at Remick’s on West 28th Street,
in his thirtieth year visits Europe,
renews acquaintance with Alban Berg,
Ravel, Poulenc, Milhaud, Prokokiev
and William Walton, hears Rhapsody in Blue
and Concerto in F performed in Paris.
From the grassed walk above the Ha-ha,
we can see the main gates, unused now,
the lane to the station, the Cadbury
and MDF factories, the market town
of Chirk itself and, beyond, the panorama –
from Bickerton Hills to The Long Mynd –
as we follow the trail of illicit confetti
to the Doric Temple aka summerhouse.
‘But, oh my dear,
Our love is here to stay.
Going a long, long way.’
The 8th Lord Howard De Walden – Tommy
to friends and family, Eton and Sandhurst,
Boer War and Great War, race horse owner,
playwright, theatre impresario –
turned its 14th century chapel
into a concert hall and invited George.
The westering sun shines upon us, dreaming
in the Temple, your head upon my shoulder.
A flock of starlings swarms suddenly
above the town – waltzing, deceiving like
a net, substantial, delicate – and is gone.
‘In time the Rockies may crumble,
Gibraltar may tumble,
There’re only made of clay,
But our love is here to stay.’
There is no public record of what he played
or when or how he got here. I like to think
he chose the stopping train from Paddington,
to work on An American in Paris,
and that Tommy met him personally
at Chirk Station, drove him up the hill,
in his Hispano-Suiza, through the baroque
wrought iron gates replete with wolves’ and eagles’ heads –
and as they, genius and renaissance man,
chatted about the history of the place,
along the chestnut lined drive among
the grazing sheep, George thought of Brooklyn’s
geometric streets and of Manhattan’s roar.
Note: an edited version of this piece has been subsequently published in ‘A Jar of Sticklebacks’ – http://www.armadillocentral.com/general/a-jar-of-sticklebacks-by-david-selzer