Youth and Age on Beaulieu River, Hants.

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

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