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Friday, 15 February 2013

Stevie Smith: Grave by a Holm-Oak


Holm Oak (Quercus ilex): photo by Ron Pilcher, 10 February 2012

You lie there, Anna,
In your grave now,
Under a snow-sky,
You lie there now.

Where have the dead gone?
Where do they live now?
Not in the grave, they say,
Then where now?

Tell me, tell me,
Is it where I may go?
Ask not, cries the holm-oak,
Weep, says snow.

File:Frouzet fg04.jpg

Quercus ilex, Frouzet, Languedoc-Roussillon, France: photo by Fritz Geller-Grimm, 1 June 2006

Holm Oaks (Quercus ilex) in the Ilex Grove, Cliveden: photo by Ron Pilcher, 15 March 2012

Stevie Smith (1902-1971): Grave by a Holm-Oak, from The New Statesman, 21 March 1969; in Scorpion and Other Poems, 1972

Florence Margaret (Stevie) Smith lived from the age of sixteen with her mother's sister, Madge (Margaret Anne) Spear.  Stevie Smith was immensely attached to this "Lion Aunt" (a term of affection), who had cared for her since a girlhood marked by infirmity and loneliness; when her aunt grew old and could no longer look after herself, Stevie in her turn loyally cared for her at the flat they had long shared in North London. Spear died in 1968, at age ninety-six. Stevie survived her by three years.


TC said...

Stevie Smith talks about poetry, and reads "Not Waving But Drowning"

Wooden Boy said...

Weep, says snow.

Harrowing last line.

The pressure of that grief has made a diamond.

tpw said...

I love that poem, which is just asking to be sung. Thanks, Tom.

TC said...

Many thanks Duncan and Terry. Agreed on all counts.

If pressure makes diamonds...