.

 

Earth Song

We longed to see Norway’s Northern Lights,
That great, magnetic, celestial ballet
Of colour, one of nature’s majestic sights:
‘Not to be missed at any cost’. The cliche
Was ironic; we’d scheduled just one day
In Oslo, and then we would be on our way
Northwards—but quarantine prevailed.
With lockdown extended and restrictions imposed,
We had no way out; borders were closed
And all attempts to board a flight home failed.

We watched the stark, silent trees: bare,
Black against the strong April sun 
In the parklands near the shimmering sea, where
Gulls gathered and wheeled and soared and spun.
The melancholy sycamores stood 
Asleep until one day they were in bud.
The trees were waking in the warmth of Spring!
Bright, green leaves appeared, small, curled;
Then, like sails on distant yachts unfurled,
They opened, and the world heard a skylark sing:

How glorious! And the early woodland flowers:
Shy snowdrops, crocus, daffodil—
And fragrant hyacinths in the bowers
Under the spreading boughs. We felt the thrill
Of the Earth stirring, a new beginning
And Mother Nature’s life-force underpinning
It all. It was wondrous, lyrical.
We never saw the polar Aurora shine 
But witnessed something ineffably divine
When Springtime came: a magical miracle!

.

.

 

Chrysalis

The performance ends to dutiful applause.
A special day: the final time this class
Will assemble here. I climb the steps and pause,
Allowing staff and honoured guest to pass.
I view a sea of young, expectant faces
And happy families from far-flung places,
Justly proud of their children. The whole school’s here
To watch them graduate and leave the nest,
Fulfil parental hopes and be the best:
Excel in life and love and chosen career.

The house lights dim; I walk towards the rostrum,
Script in hand: an anecdote or two,
A joke, some trite words of wisdom—a nostrum
To lighten the atmosphere and help them through
The tearful, fearful rite of school leaving.
But spoken words should never be deceiving
And, truth to tell, I really should confess
That life can be a series of missed chances
Often circumscribed by circumstances.
What lies ahead is anybody’s guess.

That theme’s too dreary for graduation day.
A short, uplifting speech is what’s required
Before the presentation of a bouquet,
Scroll and testimonial, desired
Accolade for their pupal pupil years,
The growing pains, the angst, toil and tears.
They’re young enough to think that they’re immortal,
That ideals are real and life is always fair,
That fame and glory are theirs if they but dare
To venture, and this celebration’s the portal

Through which they transmigrate to adulthood,
Leaving behind their green and callow ways.
Metamorphosis complete, it’s understood
That few will return to relive their chrysalis days.
They pose for photos; one blows a little kiss,
Another waves. When older, they’ll reminisce
About these best days of their lives. As for me,
I’ll reflect and make a reckoning
Of what I’ve done; retirement’s beckoning;
Today is also my valedictory.

And after all the rituals are done
And mortar boards are tossed into the air,
I check the clock and see we’ve overrun
Our allotted time. We should repair
To the dining hall for cakes and tea,
For small talk and vacuous promises to see
Each other again, and soon. Souvenirs,
Final tears, and then it’s time to go;
I quietly leave and wonder if they know
We travel alone with our private fears.

.

.

Lawrence Fray was born in the UK, raised in ireland and has been an educator in several countries before retiring to the Hill Station of Ranikhet in North India.


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11 Responses

  1. Jeff Eardley

    Lawrence, we thoroughly enjoyed reading these. My wife is a retired teacher and “Chrysalis” says it’s all for those end of term feelings. (Pupil/pupal is pure genius by the way.) Earth song is a lovely example of organised plans disrupted to produce a travellers tale to savour.
    Most enjoyable, thank you..

    Reply
    • Lawrence Fray

      Good Day Jeff, and many thanks for your mail. It’s heartening to know that one’s efforts are appreciated. Sincere thanks.

      Reply
  2. Gauri Kumar

    How a personal experience in Norway turned into a beautiful poetry. Great work.

    Reply
  3. Rita Bajaj

    It’s always a pleasure to read beautiful poems with graceful words. Indeed lovely expressions.

    With scenic beauty of Ranikhet , we are expecting more emotional creations by our dear Lawrence.

    Reply
  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    I want to point out here that Mr. Fray demonstrates a solid and professional command of meter, and that he makes a very sophisticated use of variant substitutions in his iambic pentameter lines. For example, in “Chrysalis” —

    1. (line 3) Will assemble here. I climb the steps and pause…

    Scansion here is: [x x / x / x / x / x /]
    This is an anapest followed by four iambs, and the line has eleven syllables.

    2. (line 44) Our allotted time. We should repair…

    Scansion here is: [/ x / x / x / x /]
    These are four trochees with a truncated close, and the line has nine syllables. The same pattern holds for line 45: (“To the dining hall for cakes and tea”).

    3. (line 50) We travel alone, with our private fears…

    Scansion here is: [x / x x / / x / x /]
    This is an iamb followed by an anapest and three iambs, with a truncated close.

    Other readers may scan the lines in different ways, but they have the requisite five stresses, and they flow smoothly.

    Good work, Mr. Fray.

    Reply
    • Lawrence Fray

      Your analysis is indeed helpful. I worked on keeping five stresses per line while the tone of the poem is matter-of-fact and almost conversational.

      Reply

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