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Tag Archives Calais

CONFUSED ALARMS

One of my favourites poems is Dover Beach.

I read it first at school when I was fifteen.

It seemed a fine thing to have written –

evocative, erudite, sonorous,

personal. Matthew Arnold, the advocate

of ‘sweetness and light’, honeymooned abroad

the year of the Great Exhibition.

Returning to England they stayed the night

at the Lord Warden Hotel – before taking

the train to London – no doubt to recover

from the paddle steamer that ferried them

across the English Channel,

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BLIGHTY WARD

After the halting journey from Calais,

via Waterloo and the main line north,

to be carried that autumn afternoon

in the estate’s wagons through the park gates,

past the grazing deer, to be greeted

on the front steps by his Lordship himself

with a small speech about sanctuary,

the first of the curable invalids –

trench foot, shell shock, TB – must have thought

they were in some temporary heaven.

 

They called it ‘Blighty Ward’ – the Garden Salon

with windows that overlooked the parterre

where the last of the roses were blooming.

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