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The Lyrics

Fleur Adcock wanted to write a poem about her mother, she chose to set the poem in the house where she had lived when she was a teenager - in Miramar, a suburb of Wellington, in New Zealand. She was also concerned with the themes of memory and loss, as Edward Thomas was in his poem, Old Man.

Fleur Adcock
Miramar by Fleur Adcock
Old Man, by Edward Thomas

Miramar by Fleur Adcock
 Hear the poem |  Biography
Miramar? No, surely not -- it can't be:
the cream, clinker-built walls, the pepper tree,
the swan-plants under my bedroom window...
But if it is, I'll open the back door
to the sun porch, with its tang of baked wood.

You'll be lying propped on the shabby couch,
writing; you won't be pleased to see me,
home from school already, with my panama
and my teenage grumps, though you'll pretend
you're a gracious mother, and I a loving daughter.

After the chiropractor's fixed your back
and growing up improved my temper,
we'll learn to be good friends for forty years,
most of them spent apart, vocal with letters:
glad of each other, over all the distances --

until this one, that telescopes your past,
compacting the whole time from postwar England
to your present house into a flattened slice
of Lethe; tidily deleting my teens
from your tangled brain; obliterating Miramar.

Old Man, by Edward Thomas
 Fleur Adcock talks about the themes of memory and loss that Edward Thomas's poem inspire

Old Man, or Lad's-love, -- in the name there's nothing
To one that knows not Lad's-love, or Old Man,
The hoar-green feathery herb, almost a tree,
Growing with rosemary and lavender.
Even to one that knows it well, the names
Half decorate, half perplex, the thing it is:
At least, what that is clings not to the names
In spite of time. And yet I like the names.

The herb itself I like not, but for certain
I love it, as some day the child will love it
Who plucks a feather from the door-side bush
Whenever she goes in or out of the house.
Often she waits there, snipping the tips and shrivelling
The shreds at last on to the path, perhaps
Thinking, perhaps of nothing, till she sniffs
Her fingers and runs off. The bush is still
But half as tall as she, though it is as old;
So well she clips it. Not a word she says;
And I can only wonder how much hereafter
She will remember, with that bitter scent,
Of garden rows, and ancient damson trees
Topping a hedge, a bent path to a door,
A low thick bush beside the door, and me
Forbidding her to pick.

As for myself,
Where first I met the bitter scent is lost.
I, too, often shrivel the grey shreds,
Sniff them and think and sniff again and try
Once more to think what it is I am remembering,
Always in vain. I cannot like the scent,
Yet I would rather give up others more sweet,
With no meaning, than this bitter one.

I have mislaid the key. I sniff the spray
And think of nothing; I see and I hear nothing;
Yet seem, too, to be listening, lying in wait
For what I should, yet never can, remember:
No garden appears, no path, no hoar-green bush
Of Lad's-love, or Old Man, no child beside,
Neither father nor mother, nor any playmate;
Only an avenue, dark, nameless, without end.


Poets on the Lyrics

 Andrew Motion

 Jackie Kay

 Paul Muldoon

 Fleur Adcock

Further Links

 Biography of Fleur Adcock

 For a Five Year Old by Fleur

 Two poems about love by
    Fleur Adcock

 Things by Fleur Adcock

 Edward Thomas Fellowship

 Edward Thomas on the BBC

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