Hero of his village by Nigel Heseltine

Though you are missing from the shelf
where your family coffins rot in the vault,
your cross is on the church wall
decorated with a button or two from your coat.

So the children coming with the hymn-
books in their hands see that you died
for liberty or some cause and hang
above where the parish magazine is displayed.

Though there is nothing of you but the buttons,
those in the cricket-team you taught to bowl
remember you; the girls you looked aside from
lest you become entangled, married now
look beyond their solid husbands, remember you well.

Though you left no child, nor a wife
nor ploughed land save once on leave
as relaxation; though the parson leaving
his church in a hurry now never sees
your cross, yet given a proper occasion the man
could preach a sermon on your dying that would make
futile in comparison the longest life.

by Nigel Heseltine

Additional Information: Nigel Heseltine (3 July 1916 – 1995) was an English author of travel books, short storiesplays, and poetry, as well as an agronomist for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Heseltine was born in London in 1916, the son of composer Philip Heseltine, better known as Peter Warlock, and Minnie Lucy Channing, an occasional model for Augustus John, nicknamed “Puma”. In his memoir Capriol for Mother, however, Heseltine claims that his mother was a Swiss woman, a friend of Juliette Huxley.

He spent most of his childhood in Wales with Warlock’s mother and Welsh stepfather at Cefyn Bryntalch and attended Shrewsbury School. This led to the misconception that Heseltine himself was Welsh. (I found this poem in a Welsh poetry anthology on the theme of war so, apparently, that misconception was alive and well in 2002).

In 1937 he travelled on foot across Albania and wrote of his experience in Scarred Background. In 1938 he married Natalia Borisovna Galitzine or Galitzina, an aristocrat in Budapest. He married four more times. During World War II he was in Dublin, working as a playwright for the Olympia Theatre company of Shelagh Richards (1903–1985).

He has nothing to do with Lord Michael Heseltine, who ironically is of Welsh heritage and was born in Swansea, as far as I’m aware.

The Willow by Vladimir Soloukhin

The willow

Over past the potato patch

Is the least lucky

Of all the trees of our village –

The spot has been turned into a rubbish dump.

Yes. In the first place, no one knows whose it was,

Who planted it there, or why –

We don’t know.

If it’s always clean and tidy as a peasant’s hut

Round other

Perfectly ordinary, pleasant willows,

Round that godforsaken one

All manner of trash is piled.

People bring scrap iron,

Galoshes, boots,

Not fit for anything now, of course,

(If they were any good at all, they wouldn’t be there),

And when the cat dies, it’s dumped by the tree.

So encircled is the poor willow

With old boots, rags and rotting cats

That it’s advisable to give it a wide berth.

.

But still, when May comes,

The willow, up to its knees in muck,

Suddenly begins gently to gild itself.

It doesn’t give a damn about the torn galoshes,

The jars and tins, the old clothes.

It blossoms as do all its earthly sisters.

Shyly it blossoms

With innocent flowers, so pure,

Turned towards the sun, for the first time opening.

And the sun shines. And the whole tree smells of honey.

.

And, incidentally, bees fly to it,

In spite of the rubbish lying at its foot,

And bears away the translucent honey of its flowers

To people who abuse trees.

.

.

by Владимир Алексеевич Солоухин

(Vladimir Alexeyevich Soloukhin)

translated by Daniel Weissbort

Additional information: Soloukhin lived from 1924 to 1997.

At the Moscow meeting of writers on October 31, 1958, he took part in the condemnation of the novel Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. Soloukhin noted about the Nobel Prize laureate that Pasternak should become an emigrant:

“He will not be able to tell anything interesting there. And in a month he will be thrown out like an eaten egg, like a squeezed lemon. And then it will be a real execution for the betrayal that he committed ”

[Apologies for the rough translation – the original version of the quote, in Cyrillic, can be found on the Soloukhin’s Russian Wikipedia page].

In his journalism of the late 1950s and early 1960s, Soloukhin spoke out as a Russian patriot, pointed out the need to preserve national traditions, and reflected on the development of Russian art.

The main theme of Soloukhin’s poetic and literary work is the Russian countryside, its present and future. His works strive to demonstrate the necessity of preserving Russia’s national traditions, and pondering the ways to further develop ethnic Russian art.

Vladimir Soloukhin is considered to be a leading figure of the “village prose” group of writers. His journalistic expressions of opinion during the later years of perestroika idealized pre-revolutionary Russia. So it is interesting to note that while other groups had their works censored or suppressed the ‘village writers’ works were passed with such criticism due to their idealising of the manual laborer contributing to society.

In the early 1960s he became interested in Russian icons, eventually becoming a respected advocate of them, as well as a collector and specialist in the interpretation and technique of icon painting. His publications on this subject – “Letters from the Russian Museum” (1966) and “Black Boards” (1968) received a wide public response.

Soloukhin’s book “Searching for Icons in Russia” describes his hobby of collecting icons. He traveled throughout the countryside in the 1950s and 1960s searching for icons. In some instances he discovered beautiful 16th century icons underneath layers of grime and over-painting yet he also finds ancient icons chopped into bits and rotting away.

He was known for his campaign to preserve pre-revolutionary Russian art and architecture. Ilya Glazunov painted a portrait of him. He died on 4 April 1997 in Moscow and was buried in his native village.

.

If you are able to find the Russian Cyrillic version of the above poem and direct me to it I would very much appreciated it.

Invitation by R. S. Thomas

And one voice says: Come
Back to the rain and manure
Of Siloh, to the small talk,
Of the wind,and the chapel's

Temptation; to the pale,
Sickly half-smile of
The daughter of the village
Grocer. The other says: Come

To the streets, where the pound
Sings and the doors open
To its music, with life
Like an express train running

To time. And I stay
Here, listening to them, blowing
On the small soul in my
Keeping with such breath as I have.

by R. S. Thomas
from H'm (1972)

Siloh is a hamlet in Llandovery, Carmarthenshire.

Evening by R. S. Thomas

The archer with time

as his arrow – has he broken

his strings that the rainbow

is so quiet over our village?

 

Let us stand, then in the interval

of our wounding, till the silence

turn golden and love is

a moment eternally overflowing.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from No Truce With the Furies (1995)