Saturday, 5 June 2010


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)


  1. Dear Sharon

    Love your site! Suppose I'm responding to two of your blog posts when writing now that I'm lucky enough to live in the Old Vicarage - the house I once "drooled over" from afar, and that stirred RCB to write these immortal lines

    J x

  2. Lovely verses, Sharon. Thank you for sharing them.

    I agree with you about public clocks. I just wish we had more of them here in the States... There are a few; they seem to be more common in small towns throughout the midwest. They have amazing charm.

  3. I love clocks too. I love the concept of seizing the moment about everything in life – because nothing comes twice and you have to take your choice or the rest falls away.

    I love the famous St. Mark’s Clocktower situated on the famous Piazza San Marco in Venezia. It has five bays, of which the central bay is the widest.
    This bay incorporates a two-storey gateway, with the large clock face above, topped by a single storey tower with a depiction of a “Lion of St Mark” against the night sky, while two blackened bronze figures intended as giants but known as the "Moors" (the famous Moors of Venice) stand on top and ring a bell on the hour. The inner dials indicate the phases of the moon and sun.

    You watch a clock beating the time and think that it was created by the mastery of artists – which dedicated true works of art to the time flow.

    A good song about this topic?
    Coldplay’s “Clocks” (of course). Do you like Coldplay, Sharon?

  4. Don't know the Coldplay song "Clocks", Michela - and I don't really know much about their music, either - though of course I always recognise it when I hear it. I find it a rather sad and mournful - but maybe that's the point?

    Lovely description of the St. Mark's clock-tower.

  5. Yes, it’s true. Most of Coldplay’s songs are sad but they have something… cathartic and beautiful.

    Sadness can be beautiful when good artists make it the right way.

    They accompanied me in the most meaningful moments of my life… well, in my early 25 years! – because in their songs you can find something that fits you.

    Chris Martin is an amazing songwriter and the band has created a new genre which mixes various kinds of music. That’s why I love them.

    If you had to listen to some of their songs – remember “Fix you” and “Viva la vida”.

  6. Dear Sharon, I'm a biggest fan of all your works. I'm from a small town in Argentina. Since my early adolescence, since I found your "Seducción Implacable" (Savage Seduction), and that gorgeus, lovely Constantine, I fall in love with your heroes.

    And now, with almost 29 years old, your books are a nice moment, a little oasis in the middle of each day problems. Thanks for give us such wonderful stories!

  7. Thanks SO MUCH for your sweet remarks, Pekko - you've really made my day!

  8. You've got mail! :)

  9. That was a beautiful comment from Pekko...

    You must have the best job in the world, Sharon.

  10. My favourite clock has to be the one at Waterloo station. Surely one of the most romantic places in the world?!

  11. And thank you, Dan - you're right. It's a great job and since my current hero is Russian, I'm having lots of fun researching!