ESSAY Jim Pratt

NWR Issue 106

A Summer Corridor

Shortly before she died in 1958, my aunt Peggy Whistler celebrated in a poem a year of her childhood spent with her sister Nancy (whom she addressed as Siân), unsupervised on Benhall farm near Ross-on-Wye. Peggy, whose pen name would be Margiad Evans, was then eleven years old: her sister, Nancy, was nine. The year was 1920. In the poem, one of her best and most revealing, she described the freedom in which these two young girls played in the River Wye. The poem invokes summer. It does more than that: it eulogises the unrestrained love and affection the sisters shared throughout their lives, even though they ultimately went their separate ways.

Do you remember Sian? How dearly do you remember?
Margiad Evans (Autobiography)

To My Sister Sian

Nature and time are against us now:
no more we leap up the river like salmon,
nor dive through its fishy holes
sliding along its summer corridor
with all the water from Wales, nor tear it to silver
shreds with our childish arms when it bolted our path for the day,
nor wade wearing our bindings
of string weed, white-flowering from our nakedness;
nor lie in the hot yellow fields with the cows.

We go home separately, Sian.
Strangest of all changes, that you have one door,
I another! Dreamily I write to our childhood,
sisters with a brotherly friendship, one loyal to both...

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previous essay: Coastwalkers & Curious Travellers
next essay: An Ugly, Lovely Year


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