‘His eyes have a comfortable blue look of hope and his mind is peaceful… ’
(From a letter by Robert Falcon Scott, written beside his dying friend
and chief scientific officer, Dr. E.A.Wilson, of Cheltenham, in their
tent on the Great Ice Barrier, March 1912.)
Beyond pain, beyond numbness, beyond regret,
There is a waiting room, furnished to your taste.
More gallery than antechamber, in this instance.
Walls overloaded with South Atlantic icescapes.
Silhouettes and cherished family photographs
Lining the mantelpiece to make you feel at home.
Every available bureau and flat surface
Exhibiting its treasure-trove of sketch pads, jotters.
Take a little time to inspect this memorabilia.
Revisit the Cheltenham of your childhood.
Montpellier Parade. Strollers on broad pavements.
Canopy of foliage bordering the Promenade.
Orderly procession of carriages. Mounted gentry.
The sprawling fifteenth-century Gothic façade
Of your old College. Favourite vantage points.
Cleeve Hill. Birdlip. Shurdington. Crickley.
Youthful powers of observation are evident.
Wild and domestic animal studies at The Crippetts.
Blarney Castle. Cocklewomen at Kidwelly.
Art materials are to hand. You may wish
To undertake a spot of unfinished business.
More shadow on those Gloucester cathedral pillars.
A pencil stroke to define a barn owl’s beak.
Some stippling on the privet hawk-moth caterpillar.
All that is painterly in you, however,
Shines brightest in your Antarctic masterpieces.
Mathematically precise shorelines. Emperor penguins.
The wash of blue distinguishing an ancient iceberg.
That galling flagstaff at the Pole, Fram’s pennant fluttering.
Now that the blizzard’s fury is irrelevant,
Relax. Indulge yourself. Think of a subject.
Listen. There are larks above Leckhampton.