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Chirk Castle from the North, Peter Tillemans, 1725

Chirk Castle from the North, Peter Tillemans, 1725

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.

Together we’re

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.

Remick's Music Store, 1914

Remick's Music Store, 1914



Note: an edited version of this piece has been subsequently published in ‘A Jar of Sticklebacks’ –




© Copyright David Selzer

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