by John Betjeman
Early sun on Beaulieu water
Lights the undersides of oaks,
Clumps of leaves it floods and blanches,
All transparent glow the branches
Which the double sunlight soaks;
To her craft on Beaulieu water
Clemency the General’s daughter
Pulls across with even strokes.
Schoolboy-sure she is this morning;
Soon her sharpie’s rigg’d and free.
Cool beneath a garden awning
Mrs. Fairclough, sipping tea
And raising large long-distance glasses
As the little sharpie passes,
Sighs our sailor girl to see:
Tulip figure, so appealing,
Oval face, so serious-eyed,
Tree-roots pass’d and muddy beaches.
On to huge and lake-like reaches,
Soft and sun-warm, see her glide –
Slacks the slim young limbs revealing,
Sun-brown arm the tiller feeling –
With the wind and with the tide.
Evening light will bring the water,
Day-long sun will burst the bud,
Clemency, the General’s daughter,
Will return upon the flood.
But the older woman only
Knows the ebb-tide leaves her lonely
With the shining fields of mud.
Youth and Age on Beaulieu River, Hants ©️2006
Reproduced with permission of John Murray, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.
You can find out more about John Betjeman here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Betjeman