Hospital-clean, the cold-washed concrete floor drains towards the middle, flushing muck to sluices. Wide galvanised sliding doors hang on corrugated wall panels tucked under impermanent eaves. Strip lighting — and hydraulic noise from electric pumps attached to numbered livestock sucking liquid milk to multi-gallon sumps — offends against the sweet smell of the dairy.
The shed is full of moisture-laden breath, gleaming Friesian hides, bulging curves and eyes. An exhausted kindness, rich and homely, gains the upper hand; nature’s gentle strength comes by and wins with lowing lullabies.
ilm Dafydd ap Goronwy Griffith (15 May 1934 – 15 April 2020)
Pictures of Dafydd on the Talyllyn Railway with George and Mariella; and then at Merrow with my Mum and Uncle (his cousins), my Granny (seated) and James and Mary (my brother and sister.) It was taken in October 1977 about the same time as The Dairy memory recalled in the poem. Dafydd was the dairyman.
As winter ends, winter starts again. Late March warmth lies with coughs and fever, face-grey shadows darken longer days, and high-sky sun shines on windowless wards. Hospital green is the season’s colour.
Garden foxes play in rose-dawn light, rising doubt hangs in latent streets, odd wasps drift between blossoms spreading and seeding unwanted fruit, and the numbers explode like purple globes of allium blooms.
Thoughts of renewal are not what they were: first-cut strips of grass mask earth beneath and, at a safe distance, tender leaves grieve. Summertime begins. Winter starts again.
Nights are the worst: dark acres of time are unfilled with anything but low noise as cars burr along the northbound carriageway.
Mum is cold, anxious in unsettled grief. There’s no point getting up: without him there’s nothing to do. Days see diversions but now, why does sitting there beat lying here?
Wide awake in darkness she heard herself say: “Dada?” and reach out her hand. He used to take it and warm it. This cold, Dada-less night, as she reached for him again, he warmed her again. The sheets softened, the noises dissolved and she stopped thinking. She felt him, she knew he was nearby and she slept.
Like many others, I expect, I have long been confused why and how the ‘Jesusalem’ verses by William Blake have become stuff of English patriotism, even jingoism. Yeah, I know, Hubert Parry has a lot to answer for. But it becomes even more confusing when one notes that the repeated question marks written in orignial editions are omitted in many reprints. Not my OUP edition, mind, edited by Geoffrey Keynes. It has more question points than Blake’s engraving!
I am sure all of this must have been said before, so this just to get it off my chest. The question marks are essential to the reading. I think of them as rehetorical with the unwritten answer an overwhelming “no!”
Furthering my interpretationis this excerpt from Bible’s book of the Apocalypse, which I came across today. Blake was nothing if not apocalyptic and I suggest these lines from Chapter 21 (or ones similar) might have been an inspiration.
“Vision of the New Jerusalem
And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. It has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites; on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”
Rethought and redescribed for our heterodox age, we are a long way from Jerusalem.