”Then we turned from the blossoms, and cold were they grown:
In the trees the wind westering moved;
Till over the threshold back fluttered her gown,
And in the dark house was I loved.”
This is the final stanza in William Morris’s poem Thunder In The Garden, from his book Poems By The Way, published in 1891 as some kind of scrap book with older texts, new poems written on the way to somewhere, for newspapers and directly for his political mission.
”Thunder”, is one of the new ones, maybe written just to fill out the volume, and describing a garden during a hot afternoon with distant thunder.
The female in the poem suddenly changes the peculiar mood with a smile and love breaks out, just like the thunder. I think about Morris’s own yearnings his troubled marriage, all these tensions that must have filled his life. These timeless tensions. Here, in the poem, after doubt and storm, Love triumphs at last.
The actual book where I found the poem once belonged to Erna Bennett (1925 – 2012) a famed pioneer of plant genetics, a communist and a lover of poetry and old books. She served in the Special Forces in Greece during the Second World War, but opposing British tactics, she left her unit, was court-martialled and could have faced a death sentence for desertion. She was, instead, sent back to England, where she started her career in botany, becoming one of the world’s experts on agriculture, with a passion for genetic diversity and sustainability. She retired to Scotland, where she joined The Communist Party of Britain. One of her friends, writing an obituary in The Guardian in February 2012 described Bennett as ”a bundle of contradictions”. Just like Morris, and just like all of us. Luckily there’s this thing called Love…