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Memories of Oxford

On this afternoon of soft rain you come to me:
Old memories of the slow brown river
And the birdsong-pulsing twilight round the roofs
And steeples of the calm city.
You do not bring to me so much a place,
But more a time: the early, Winter-bounded Spring
Of my spiritís flowering, warm with sap,
And precious as a new-born child.
I have never since known the strange comfort
Of those age-sooted arches and those solemn, solemn bells,
And the unexpected glory of wisteria blooms
Dripping their summer-essence into a busy street.
And nothing ever matched those frail fritillaries,
Stippled all over with fairy hieroglyphics
That even dons could never quite decipher.
Oh! and the lush, lush, green and greener grass,
And the smell of bluebells crushed beneath the feet,
And the green reflections in the river with the sky all blue
Between. Then Autumn, not the boisterous days of home,
But a stately, slightly sad splendor, like the gilded
Treasures of a long-forgotten king.
And soon the first frosts; a powdering of snow;
Cold mornings slipping on the ice, and leaves like webs
Clinging to the handrails of the bridge.
And carols on the stairs, happy faces and fresh hopes,
Long vistas of Springs and Summers, year upon year,
And the cold and dark blocked out by golden lamplight.
Ah well, so Winter was then. But now it is always Winter:
A Winter of harsh exposure to the wind.
Spring no longer comes to my bruised awareness,
And snow has closed the passes in my mind.

by Damaris West

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