They are waiting for me somewhere beyond Eden Rock:
My father, twenty-five, in the same suit
Of Genuine Irish Tweed, his terrier Jack
Still two years old and trembling at his feet.
My mother, twenty-three, in a sprigged dress
Drawn at the waist, ribbon in her straw hat,
Has spread the stiff white cloth over the grass.
Her hair, the colour of wheat, takes on the light.
She pours tea from a Thermos, the milk straight
From an old H.P. sauce-bottle, a screw
Of paper for a cork; slowly sets out
The same three plates, the tin cups painted blue.
The sky whitens as if lit by three suns.
My mother shades her eyes and looks my way
Over the drifted stream. My father spins
A stone along the water. Leisurely,
They beckon to me from the other bank.
I hear them call, ‘See where the stream-path is!
Crossing is not as hard as you might think.’
I had not thought that it would be like this.
The last poem in Charles Causley’s ‘Collected Poems’: a beautiful acceptance of ending in which an ancient symbolism is underpinned by homely detail: the stream may have flowed out of ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ but that sauce-bottle is Causley’s own.
Pingback: Eden Rock by Charles Causley – A40
“the same suit”, “The same three plates” – the suit and plates he remembers from early childhood? “Genuine Irish Tweed” – initial caps, as might be used in an advert for Irish tweed? “sprigged dress” – a dress patterned with small bunches of flowers. ‘See where the stream-path is! / Crossing is not as hard as you might think.’ – follow the path and in a few steps you might find yourself on this side?
For ‘sprigged’ cf. Hardy’s poem ‘Weathers’: ‘And maids come forth sprig-muslin drest’. Crossing the river, of course, has been a symbol of death since ancient times, and still gets used, as in ‘Erwan’, one of my favourite Welsh songs by Meic Stephens in memory of a friend killed in a road accident, sung beautifully by Meinir Gwilym: ‘Erwan ble rwyti/wedi croesi’r afon/yn nhafarn Tir na n-Og/rwyt yn yfed nawr’ (‘Erwan where are you?/You’ve crossed the river;/at a tavern in Tir Na nOg,/ you’re drinking now’).