Aspasia

oxfordYet another Byron-related poem – this one inspired by Lady Oxford, a cougar if there ever was one! Google her. She would make a fine character in a novel – a lusty lady of the first water. She had a good many kids though it was speculated at the time that none of them were her husband Lord Harley’s and none had the same father.

Lord Byron was in the midst of a torrid, messy affair with Lady Caroline Lamb when he started up a dalliance with Lady Oxford, promptly moving to her country estate of Eywood where he not only diddled the dam but eyed her lovely daughters, the eldest of which was 12 years old. And we think our age is decadent!

I visited Eywood in 1988 with the International Byron Society. There was actually nothing much to see, the house having been demolished in the ’50s. There are the remains of a stable block and a few scraps of stone. The poem is a departure for me in that I have chosen not to punctuate it but to let impressions flow one into another, like the flow of memory.

RUINS OF EYWOOD

To Jane Harley (Aspasia), Countess of Oxford (1774-1824)

A crumbling stable block
A sheep-mown lawn
Tangled hedgerow weedy bank
A shallow reed clogged lake

Broken limestone strewn
On gorse browning grass
Gray with morning damp
Moody sad forlorn

Where once the darling
Daughters danced
Where once their mother
Wooed a willing youth

Warm hands straying
Silken under things lush kisses
Ample lips hips whispers
Secrets shared and giving

Gone the sunny balcony
Gone the day and night
Laughter’s music lightly
trilling on the country air

Aspasia sleeps in memory
Her daughters dust
The lordly youth held captive
On the brittle paper of a poem

I walk this day where brief
Love bloomed summer ripe
Scents fleeting passion singing
Melodies long faded

Raw autumn winds soon
Scour ruined Eywood
Barren rock tansy tangled slopes
Thistle lashed with icy rain

Like Jane I won’t return again
Nor stroll the broken pastureland
Dreaming longing lost to youth
And might have been.

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