Visiting Chester recently, I was enchanted by the intricate clock which looks down on this pretty city.
It probably sounds geeky, but I love public clocks. Traditionally a meeting place, their significance is huge. I wonder what human intrigue they have witnessed. I think about the chiming away of the years and the importance of seizing the moment. And of course, I love the poem which has (possibly) the world's most famous line about clocks - the heartbreakingly beautiful poem by Rupert Brooke - the first and last verses of which I have copied here:
The Old Vicarage, Grantchester
(written at the Cafe des Westens, Berlin, May 1912)
- Just now the lilac is in bloom,
- All before my little room;
- And in my flower-beds, I think,
- Smile the carnation and the pink;
- And down the borders, well I know,
- The poppy and the pansy blow . . .
- Oh! there the chestnuts, summer through,
- Beside the river make for you
- A tunnel of green gloom, and sleep
- Deeply above; and green and deep
- The stream mysterious glides beneath,
- Green as a dream and deep as death.
- -- Oh, damn! I know it! and I know
- How the May fields all golden show,
- And when the day is young and sweet,
- Gild gloriously the bare feet
- That run to bathe . . .
- Du lieber Gott!'
- Ah God! to see the branches stir
- Across the moon at Grantchester!
- To smell the thrilling-sweet and rotten
- Unforgettable, unforgotten
- River-smell, and hear the breeze
- Sobbing in the little trees.
- Say, do the elm-clumps greatly stand
- Still guardians of that holy land?
- The chestnuts shade, in reverend dream,
- The yet unacademic stream?
- Is dawn a secret shy and cold
- Anadyomene, silver-gold?
- And sunset still a golden sea
- From Haslingfield to Madingley?
- And after, ere the night is born,
- Do hares come out about the corn?
- Oh, is the water sweet and cool,
- Gentle and brown, above the pool?
- And laughs the immortal river still
- Under the mill, under the mill?
- Say, is there Beauty yet to find?
- And Certainty? and Quiet kind?
- Deep meadows yet, for to forget
- The lies, and truths, and pain? . . . oh! yet
- Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
- And is there honey still for tea?
Rupert Chawner Brooke (1887-1915)