Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ronald Castle’s NZ cricket related poem

A poem I found recently with cricket in it is by the late New Zealand poet Ronald Castle (1907-1984), a local Wellington chemist, writer and musician, who created a pharmacy museum in the 1970s. He was an old boy of Wellington College.
Castle’s poem is an elegant evocation of school days at Wellington College, where ‘On summery days on the green, white-flannelled cricketers batted’. As an old boy of the school, I very much enjoyed Castle’s poem.
I’ll share the poem with you here:


Man in the Faded Blazer

Weary, kindly old gentleman ambling slowly the pavement,
   That black blazer you wear speaks of collegiate days;
Lamp that eternally burns, in orange embroidery gleaming,
   Still have you treasured from youth, braving the fugitive years.
Know that I, too, at the back of some drawer filled with odd trifles,
   Found my tattered old cap, fronted by orange lamp.

What are your memories, leaping the chasm of the relentless
   Onward-hastening days? Sit you again at the desk
Watching the black board where geometric angles and circles
   Drawn with chalk-scratching sound, kind ‘Garry’ Lomas defined?

Or under Welsh Mr. Jones gowned in immaculate neatness,
   Drilled with phonetic symbols, could we ‘assassinate’ spell?
Learnt we from sad Alexander the rich Ovidian sweetness
   Ere he, dying too soon, boarded Charonian barge?

And what shall be said of the Master declaiming passionate verses,
   Still ignoring his wound, late from the trenches returned?
Lover of beauty immortal, and England’s sonorous language,
   Fired he many a youth, taught him poetical craft.

Now unremembered be good Monsieur Balham, tutor,
   With Gallic accent pure, gesticulating hands,
Coaxing unlikely lads from that ‘plume de ma tante’, still missing,
   On to noble Racine, chansons of dark Baudelaire.

What nauseous fumes emitted the attic science research room!
   Bubbled the glass retorts, Bunsen burners up-flared,
Dangerous phosphorous retrieved from water exploded like fireworks;
   Through the microscope tube we viewed the structure of worlds.

Still stands the observatory dome on the hillock behind the college,
   Where Doctor Gifford grave, his counter-poised telescope swung,
Sweeping the heavens antipodean, to pupils revealing
   Stars in endless space, galactic Milky Ways?

On summery days on the green, white-flannelled cricketers batted,
   Or on the tennis courts with resonant racquets smote:
While in the blue-tiled baths naked forms were swimming,
   And from the music-room came brass and cymbals sound.

This we knew and revered, O man in the faded blazer
   Black with the orange badge bearing the deathless lamp
Over its Latin script, motto engraved in our bosoms,
   ‘LUMEN ACCIPE ET IMPERTI’, from age to age.

Poem © Ronald Castle, 1983

(From The Select Poetry of Ronald Castle, Wellington, 1983).

Publications by Ronald Castle:
Fleeting Music, Wright & Carman, 1937
Arcadian Grove, Wright & Carman, 1939
Psaltery and Trumpet, Chapbook Publications, 1948
Old Instruments in New Zealand: a short survey of the Zillah and Ronald Castle collection of early and unusual musical instruments, Z & R Castle, 1969
Verses for Music, R B Castle, 1981
The Select Poetry of Ronald Castle, Castle Publications, 1983

Further reading: A Reading of the Poetry of Ronald Brian Castle by F W Nielsen Wright, Cultural and Political Booklets, 2001

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