Saturday, 30 May 2020

The Aberystwyth Mystery

About forty years ago, my great-aunt died, the last of my grandparents' generation, and various keepsakes and trinkets came into our possession, including this box. A good, solid, well-made box, but there was, apparently, nothing of real interest in it, just a few beads and buttons.

At the bottom, presumably put there as extra lining, was a small sheet of yellowing paper, which we ignored. The box was used for various things over the years - playing cards, spare fuse wire, keys, monopoly houses fished out from under sofas and kept for safety until someone could remember where the monopoly box had been put, and those little bits you find that must surely be a part of something so you don't want to risk throwing them away in case they're vital.

Years later, I finally fished out the yellowing paper - no idea why - and discovered that it was a double page torn from a pocket notebook in which someone, in faded pencil, had kept a journal of a most exciting visit to Aberywyth. I have no idea who wrote it, or when. Early in the 20th century or maybe in Victorian times. My great aunt was born in 1900, but she lived and died in the Cardiff house that had also been occupied by her sister, my grandmother, and their parents, back to the 1880s, so it could have been written any time since then.

Some of it, I guess, was written on a knee, and is nearly illegible, but here is the thrilling transcript.
...........
Got to Aberys at 5.30, went to our Lodge — out for a walk, returned at 8.30, found our host drunk. Left there to look for another place, found one, returned to bed at 10.10pm. Could not sleep until morning. Found another young man in bed in the same room. Got up, had ham and eggs for breakfast. Went to the Congregational Chapel at 11.0am. Had a very good sermon but the singing was very inferior. Came home, had dinner, green peas and potatoes and mutton. Went out for a walk around promenade. Came to tea at 5.0. Went to the Welsh Baptist Chapel at 6.0. Very good sermon and splendid singing.

Rheidol Valley at Devil's Bridge (c) Trevor Rickard
Monday
.
Went to Tregaron. Aber at 8.30, Llanrhystyd Road, Llanfair, Trawscoed, Strata Florida, Tregaron 9.30 am. Left Tregaron 4.5pm. (Ate?) at the Talbot Hotel, had a (illegible), and went to D. Rowlands the (illegible) Man. Returned at 5pm. Meet JJ and GH at the train.

Tuesday.
Went to Devil’s Bridge 11am in a cab. 5 of us had food at Devil’s B. Returned at 7pm from the most beautiful scenery I ever saw. Went to concert at 8pm in the Pier Pavilion.

Wens
.
Went around town in the morning and to Constitution Hill at 2pm, a lovely place. Returned at 5pm and then to Flower show in the Pier pavilion. Grand show of vegetables and flowers.

Suit of clothes, 3 / 1 / 0½
For Constipation  6 / 5
For grave and T?  15 / 0
Miss Broad  10 / 6
Charles  5 / 0
........

This mysterious journal raises so many questions besides the identity of the writer. Why was he so anally obsessed with time-keeping, but couldn't think of a thing to say about Tregaron? Who was D Rowlands and what did he do? What exactly did the writer have at the Talbot Hotel? Who won the flower and veg show? And what did Miss Broad do to earn ten shillings and sixpence?
One thing is obvious, though. They certainly knew how to have a good time back then. Whenever Then was.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Dances on the Head of a Pin

Since I mentioned the monument in the middle of Haverfordwest in my last post, I thought I might as well slip in the short story I wrote about it.
So here it is...


DANCES ON THE HEAD OF A PIN

‘Well, man. And you are?’
    ‘I am? I don’t understand you, sir.’
    ‘I am asking your name, man. What is your name?’
    ‘Oh, I am William. That is my name, sir. Yes. William.’
    ‘Very well, William. Let us begin this examination.’

……….

There’s a lump of stone. A heavy piece of uninspiring Edwardian workmanship. You’ll find it in the cleft of the road, a little way below the church. It’s an unpleasant red, like steak that has begun to go off. It is polished like prized linoleum and shaped much like the pillar box that stands close by, along with a green plastic litter bin, a grey cubist telephone booth and a lamppost bearing traffic prohibitions. It’s surrounded by a low stone wall and a flight of slate-slab steps that connect one fork of the road to the other. Wall and steps provide a useful perch for the inevitable colonisers of street corners.
    Like the adolescent couple who sit there now, smoking. He finishes a can of lager and crushes it into a ball.
    ‘I’m doing a survey. Can I ask you some questions?’
    The boy shuffles away, along the step, but the girl is more curious. ‘Yeah, okay. Right. Go on then.’
    ‘Do you visit the town centre often?’
    ‘Yeah, well, sometimes.’
    ‘You live in the area?’
    ‘Yeah.’
    ‘What concerns you?’
    ‘What you mean?’
    ‘What questions keep you awake at night? What tugs at your heart and soul? What worries you?’
    ‘Oh. Right.’ She nudges her boyfriend. She thinks she knows the answer I want. ‘You mean jobs and stuff, right?’
     ‘Aren’t no jobs,’ mutters the boy.
    ‘Jobs,’ I jot down.
    ‘And housing. Yeah, ‘cos we can’t find nothing.’
    ‘Housing.’
    ‘And…’ She’s being tentative, trying to gauge my reactions. ‘Is it drugs? Is that right?’
    ‘What about transubstantiation?’
    ‘You what?’
    ‘Transubstantiation.’
    ‘Is that like, trannies? Gays, like?’
    ‘Not really.’
    ‘Don’t know nothing about it, then,’ says the boy. He’s had enough. He scrambles to his feet, dragging the girl with him, and tosses the crushed can over his shoulder. It lands at the base of the polished red stone, not far from the litter bin.

A businessman trots hurriedly down the steps, cutting off the corner as he hurries to his office.
    ‘Can I ask you your views on transubstantiation?’
    ‘No time, no time.’ He shoos me away.

An old lady, puffing up the hill, takes the opportunity to pause for breath.
    ‘Have you any thoughts about transubstantiation?’
    ‘No use asking me, love. Haven’t got any thoughts except about getting home and putting the kettle on. Electricity substations, was it? I don’t know anything about that, except my bills are too high.’
    She wheezes on her way. A lorry passes and a cloud of acrid fumes envelops the polished red stone.

……….

‘William, you must answer us,’ says Justice Horne. ‘Do you understand?’
    ‘Oh yes. You ask things and I answer.’
    ‘That is right. So listen to Father Gregory’s questions and answer him honestly.’
    ‘Yes. I am an honest man.’
    Father Gregory leans forward, eyes big and dark, almost pleading. ‘But are you an honest Christian, William? Do you believe in your soul’s salvation through the sacrifice of our Lord, Jesus Christ and the intercession of the Catholic church?’
    William gapes. ‘I go to church,’ he says, slowly.
    ‘Very good. And when you attend Mass, and the priest raises up the host, before the high altar of God, do you know what he is doing?’
    ‘He’s holding it up.’
    ‘Yes, yes, but this is important, William. The holy Eucharist. That is what we are speaking of. The bread and wine of the Mass. Do you believe that the blessed sacrament is truly the body and blood of Christ, Our Lord?’
    ‘Oh no,’ says William, cheerfully. ‘It is only bread and wine. I was told that.’
    A hiss.
    ‘Do you understand what you say, man?’
    ‘I know it is bread and wine.’
    ‘But in the course of the Mass, it becomes the actual flesh and blood of Christ, is that not so?’
    ‘No, no, I don’t eat man flesh. That would be wicked. It is only bread and wine. I was told.’
    ‘You were told wrong. Who told you this wicked lie?’
    ‘I was told. I must believe it is only bread and wine, or my soul will burn in Hell.’
    ‘You are wrong, William. Your soul will burn in Hell if you do not acknowledge, here, before us all, that the blessed sacrament is the very body and blood of Christ. Say it!’
    William’s slack lower lip hardens and juts out. His dazed eyes narrow as he tenses with a flood of obstinacy. It is, doubtless, the unthinking obstinacy that comes to his rescue when he is jostled in the street, or when bullies order him around. ‘Will not! It is only bread and wine. I was told.’
    Father Gregory sits back, shaking his head, his face racked with misery.
    Justice Horne knits his brows as he surveys William. ‘A sad business. Take him back to his cell. We can do nothing with him.’

Father Gregory clasps his hands in fervent, silent prayer. Justice Horne waits for him to finish, then crosses himself.
    ‘A bad business.’
    ‘A terrible business, Justice. A terrible heresy that will claim countless souls if it is not rooted out.’
    ‘He is a simpleton, of course.’
    ‘Clearly, but a misguided one, and those who taught him to spout these vile lies will surely feel God’s wrath. But it is his soul that is our business now.’
    ‘He is a mere child in a man’s body, is he not? Talium est enim regnum caelorum. Such is the Kingdom of Heaven.’
    ‘Yes. Yes, he is a child. Sinite parvulos et nolite eos prohibere ad me venire. Suffer the little children and forbid them not to come unto me. It is for us to lead him back to the true God, and let the simple soul enter the gates of Paradise.’
    ‘Quite so,’ says Justice Horne. ‘A child, most dear to God. Better to have found a home and refuge in a monastery than be cast adrift in this busy and relentless world.’
    ‘Indeed. In the bosom of Mother Church, he could have found true sanctuary.’
    ‘But alas, there are no monasteries now, for such simple souls and it is left to us to give him peace – us to decide what must be done with him.’
    ‘Yes. A solemn duty.’
    ‘We’ll burn him, of course.’
    ‘Of course! He must burn. Better for him to face the agonising purification of the flames now and, in them, find repentance, than to face the fires of Hell for all eternity. I would be betraying my duty for the care of his soul, otherwise. For his own salvation, he must burn.’
    Justice Horne nods politely. ‘And for the salvation of this land – for the sake of peace and order. As our noble Queen Mary and the law have decreed, so shall it be enforced. Heresies will be rooted out. We cannot permit beliefs contrary to the law—’
    ‘To the teachings of Holy Mother Church.’
    ‘To the teachings of the church, as decreed by the law. There must be one understanding of truth in this state, or how can the centre hold? If it were seen that a simple man could defy the law, with wayward views, there would be anarchy. There would be chaos. The rabble would rise and gentlemen would never be safe again. Peaceful order is everything and it is for us to enforce. If only to teach others the wisdom of obedience, he must burn.’
    ‘Amen.’


‘William. Look there. Do you see the stake they have prepared for you? The chains to bind you to it? Do you see the faggots that will be piled around you? Do you hear the baying crowd, come to see you burn?’
    William stares, vacantly. Does he understand?
    ‘Repent, William. Stand up before this crowd and recant your heresies. Acknowledge the teachings of the true church, as established by the law. Tell them you admit the truth, that the bread and wine of the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Christ. Tell them that, William, and you will not burn. Do you want to burn, William?’
    ‘No! I don’t want to burn. I don’t like being burnt.’
    ‘So tell them.’
    ‘But if I tell a lie, I will burn in Hell, forever. I don’t want that. No. This will be quicker, will it not?’
    ‘So be it, William. If you will not repent… Take him. Let us do this thing, before the crowd grows restless.’

‘These clouds look black, Father Gregory. Is that a drop of rain? I hope so. Better that sodden faggots will smoke and smother him. I confess, I take no pleasure in the sound of these screams.’
    ‘No, Justice. Don’t pray for rain. Pray rather that the fire burns and his screams continue in unabated agony to the end, for in them pour forth his pleas for mercy to Our Lord and his blessed mother, who will lead his soul to salvation. Only thus is a soul saved and the truth maintained.’
    ‘Even thus,’ agrees Justice Horne, settling back in his chair, to watch to the finish.

……….

Two middle-aged women, well-dressed, heels clicking, are winding up the hill, pausing at the lump of stone.
    ‘Excuse me, would you be willing to answer a question or two? It will take no time at all.’
    One looks wary, lips pinched, prepared to brush me aside, but the other is too polite. I don’t look like a mugger, or foreign, so perhaps I am all right.
    ‘Well, maybe. What is it about?’
    ‘Could you tell me your views on transubstantiation?’
    ‘On, er…’ They look at each other. The reluctant one is unwilling to voice her ignorance. The polite one gives an embarrassed laugh. ‘I’m sorry. I don’t know what that is.’
    ‘It’s something to do with the EU,’ snaps the other. ‘More typical bureaucracy.’
    ‘Not quite,’ I say. ‘Do you go to church?’
    The reluctant one nods. The other repeats her embarrassed laugh. ‘Not at often as I should.’
    ‘Transubstantiation is the belief that, in the celebration of the Eucharist, the bread and wine becomes the actual body and blood of Christ.’
    ‘Oh. Well. I’ve never really thought about it. Um. Why?’
    ‘You will have noticed this monument here.’ I point to the lump of stone. ‘It commemorates the burning at the stake of a man who refused to accept the principle of transubstantiation.’
    Their gaze follows my pointing finger and they read. “On this spot, William Nichol, of this town, was burnt at the stake for the truth. April 9th 1558.”
    ‘Well I never. Horrible. I mean, horrible to think they did things like that.’
    ‘The priest who helped to condemn him died a martyr, certain of his place in heaven. He was hanged, drawn and quartered, for refusing to deny transubstantiation.’
    ‘Oh nasty. I don’t know which is worse.’
    ‘This burning is listed in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. “The suffering and martyrdom of William Nichol, put to death by the wicked hands of the papists.”’
    ‘Well, fancy!’ says the polite one.
    ‘Oh, papists,’ says the other. ‘I don’t care much about them. It’s the Muslims I worry about. And the Poles.’
    ‘Of course,’ I say, and let them depart.
    I look again at the lump of stone. A small dog, running loose, is sniffing around it. He cocks a leg, pees and scampers on.
    William Nichol’s ashes were dispersed long ago, mingling with the stardust of creation. So too were the remains of Father Gregory. Different agonies, but the same stardust. Whereas I – I merely fell asleep in my bed, having gone on, for many years, to administer justice in the name of Good Queen Bess, the Anglican communion and the laws of the land.
    I don’t seem to have mingled with anything. I linger. It’s the world around me that shimmers and transforms. Did the centre hold? It shifts. I no longer know where it lies. What is it we believe, these days? I am out of touch. Some days, I no longer remember why I had to burn William Nichol, but I know it must have been important. So I come here, clip board in hand to remind myself. Of course he had to burn. Didn’t he?
    No matter. Times have moved on. There will always be another cause worth dying for. Worth killing for.
    Who shall we burn today?


Friday, 10 April 2020

Isolated Thoughts

any excuse for a cat picture
Like everyone else, I am in isolation. It means I don’t get off the property day after day. I don’t see anyone, apart from two members of my family here with me, except the postman, from a distance, and my sister who delivers our shopping once a week.

It worries me, which is odd because it’s actually no different to the way I normally live. I’m in the country, down a farm lane in the middle of nowhere, quarter of a mile from the nearest house, a mile from the nearest village, I work from home and someone else does the shopping. I love it. Most days the postman delivers something and occasionally I drive off to see a friend, but otherwise I live in splendid isolation. Now, apart from not being able to see a friend, nothing has changed. So the worry is born solely of the fact that my isolation is now compulsory, not merely voluntary. I am a bit like my cat Mitsy, who will settle anywhere and not move all day, just as long as the door is left open. Shut it and she'll be up and scratching at it. A case of sheer perversity for both of us.

Thinking about it, not only have I embraced isolation for years, but it has also been a major theme in my writing, because a sense of isolation, physical and emotion, is a compelling dramatic theme, a gift for any writer.


 In A Time For Silence, Gwen’s physical isolation, in a cottage in a remote dark valley, amplifies the emotional isolation that traps her, and the isolation of her community also plays a significant part in the story. In Shadows, Kate is isolated, wherever she goes, by the knowledge that she has feelings that no one else shares, and it has raised impenetrable bars around her. In The Unravelling, Karen is isolated by mental derangement (or re-arrangement). Regarded as a freak and pariah, she isolates herself in fiction.

I’m not the only one, of course. Authors have always dwelt on isolation, accidental or chosen, enforced or embraced. Hansel and Gretel, Robinson Crusoe, Dickens' Miss Havisham, Jane Austen’s Fanny Price and Anne Elliot, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Waugh’s Tony Last in A Handful of Dust, Naipaul’s Salim in A Bend in the River, Gollum, Harry Potter… Could I include Adam and Eve?

Wuthering Heights
Isolated houses are irresistible as setting for novels. Wuthering Heights! Agatha Christie was the mistress of trapping a whole cast of suspects within one country house. I can’t resist isolated houses either. Give me an empty window in shadows and I'm off, whether I'm peering into a tiny cottage like Cwmderwen or a mansion like Llysygarn.


Isolation is not always a bad thing in literature. In my set of novellas, Long Shadows, my medieval girl, Angharad, longs to escape from her suffocating life at Llysygarn and see the world, but finishes up embracing confinement, while the 17th century girl, Elizabeth Bowen, wants nothing more than to be left alone with her isolated house.

I have no real cause to complain about my isolation and as a writer I can feed on it, inflicting it on my characters. But even in the best of times, there are people abandoned in loneliness and people who feel most alone when surrounded by crowds. My sympathy is for all those out there isolated in desperation, anxiety and loneliness, shut up away from family, in homes or hospital wards, trapped in their own heads. We are in territory beyond fiction now.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Block

It was bound to happen. I am disappointed but not surprised. My new novel, The Covenant, which was to have been published on July 16th, has now been put on ice until August 20th (fingers crossed). By then, I hope, bookshops will have reopened, distributors will be operating their warehouses again and Amazon will have books back as no.1 essentials. Meanwhile, of course, I can always get on with another book, except...

I can’t write. Well I can, because I’m writing this, but otherwise I am faced with a brick wall.

All I ever wanted to do was write (and read). I turned down very sensible career advice from my headmaster (study law, get rich), because I didn’t want to do anything except be a writer. I made a mess of my first degree because I’d virtually given up on studying in order to write instead. For years my primary occupation, when not having to work for a living, was writing. My secondary occupation was watching for the postman to deliver rejection letters. I never, ever, considered giving up.

And now, with Covid 19, I am confronted with insurmountable inertia. I’ve never experience writer’s block before. I’ve had times when I’ve had to put things aside while I worry over why something isn’t working, or where it will go next, or if I’m bored with it, but I’ve never been faced with such a total lack of desire to write until now.

It isn’t that I am too terrified of imminent death to think of anything else. It isn’t that I am sick with worry, about falling ill, about my nearest and dearest falling ill (which I am), about whether we’ll go mad in isolation (not me, I’m used to it). I am nursing pangs of guilt that I’m not worrying about where the next meal is coming from, whether the house will be repossessed, whether the shops will have anything in or whether my money will run out. I know how lucky I am not to be worrying about those things.

So why can’t I write? Everything else is on hold. I have the perfect excuse to sit at my laptop, without interruption, and write non-stop from dawn till dusk. But I can’t, because everything I was writing, with a contemporary setting, seems now so utterly irrelevant. How can I write about a world that, when we eventually come out of all this, will no longer exist? Should I turn to writing historical drama? Somehow everything historical is now imbued with a heavy weight of inevitability, leading to an inexorable present that is sinking like a stone. All I can see, looking back, is greed, stupidity, bigotry, pointless conflicts and an endless stream of futile mistakes, peppered with plague and disease. Plus ça change. Should I write about the future? It will be dystopian, won’t it? It always is, and that now seems a little pointless, when faced with the actual thing.

I think I shall just have to dig the garden, plant seeds and crawl back inside the 1530s with Hilary Mantell. It’s going to end with a decapitation; if that doesn't cheer me up, nothing will. Then, when it’s all over and the world has decided which way up to land, I’ll start again.

Friday, 27 March 2020

Threnody

I sing of Pippin, family friend,
Window yowler,
Loving lap-warmer,
Soothing snuggler.

Lean lady of the lane, she did not rest
Sleek sable-suited sentinel of the high hedges.
Purring prey pouncer,
Mistress of mangled mice,
Sharp-toothed shrew shredder,
Wren-wrangler,
Fierce foe of pheasants (or would be, had they been smaller).

Eighteen Easters, she held sway,
Mitsy’s mentor with firm paw.
Provisioner of the Pear Tree,
She did not hold back:
Gift-giver (mostly spleens).

Weary now, wait no longer.
Marooned in maidenhood (my doing),
Diana's new moon bow bends, beckoning.
Stellar dust once more, stream star-ward.
Hunt now the high ways with Orion.

Friday, 28 February 2020

TV detectives on the page.

I have been watching TV crime dramas since I was knee-high to a bank robber. I’ve taken in everything from Dixon of Dock Green to White House Farm. These days, now that I have 150 TV channels to make my heart glad, I am usually stuck on ITV3, with endless repeats of Poirot, Frost, Midsummer Murders and Morse. Although the BBC has produced many, and American TV even more, you can't beat the ITV series for haunting and stylish theme tunes and opening credits.

I know that authors can have very different attitudes to adaptations of their books. Colin Dexter was obviously happy with having Morse taken out of his hands, since he appeared in every episode, whereas R D Wingfield wasn't so happy with A Touch of Frost. It must be disappointing to find your work ripped up and remodelled by other hands, although I defy any author to say they wouldn't love to be in a position to risk the disappointment.

It has recently occurred to me, tearing myself away from the screen, that though many of my favourites began as novels, I had never read any apart from a few Agatha Christies. So I decided to try a few and see how they compared with the TV series they spawned.

I began with Last Bus to Woodstock, by Colin Dexter, the first novel to introduce Chief Inspector Morse. I don’t expect TV adaptations to stick to the book, so I wasn’t expecting the Morse in the book to be identical to the Morse of John Thaw, and he isn’t. Which is fine. I would have been interested to explore a different character, though I can’t say I like him. The phrase ‘dirty old man’ comes to mind. I didn't particularly like this Morse and there wasn't really anything about poor Lewis to like or dislike.

I found myself put off by the style of writing, though I suppose it's what you would expect of Oxbridge. Do people perambulate? "Impatient at the best of times, and this was not the best of times, he waited restlessly and awkwardly, pacing to and fro, consulting his watch and throwing wicked glances as the portly woman inside the kiosk who appeared ill-equipped to face the triangular threat of the gadgeted apparatus before her, an uncooperative telephone exchange and her own one-handed negotiations with the assorted coinage in her purse." ... And breathe. I can't help thinking of Disraeli's description of Gladstone as being inebriated by the exuberance of his own verbosity.

The real problem though was the fact that although I had seen the TV version many times (admittedly a totally reconstructed story), the day after finishing the book, I couldn’t actually remember who had done it in the end. Nor did I really care. It petered out into an over-long explanation or who, what, why, when and where, going interminably over ground already covered, and I longed for the improbable simplicity of Poirot herding all his characters into a drawing room and revealing all over a nice tisane. I shall happily go back to watching every rerun of Morse (and Lewis and Endeavour), regardless of their unbelievable plots, but probably not bother with another of the books.

Next was The Killings at Badger’s Drift by Caroline Graham, the first Midsomer Murders. Very different in style, of course, being classified as Cosy Crime and, to my mind, much more readable. The setting is as delightfully absurdly twee at the TV version and the characters are larger than life, their physical appearance described in intricate detail, while their characters and motivations are left comfortably untroubled.

Unlike the Morse book, the TV version of this Midsomer Murder didn’t seem to deviate from the book at all, so I knew who was who and what was coming, which slightly deflated the surprise element. The only thing that did surprise me was the difference between the Barnaby of the book, who is unexpectedly dour and grumpy, and the John Nettles version who seemed to revel in Gothic gore amongst the thatch and shrubberies of rural England.
It did leave me thinking how the world has changed in a relatively short time. The Killings at Badger’s Drift was published in 1987, a world when villagers relied on telephone boxes for communication, policemen recorded details on index cards, and no one had a Facebook profile.

The last book I tried was The Crow Trap by Anne Cleeves, the first Vera Stanhope book. Entirely different. I can’t say if it compares with the TV version because it must be the one episode I have failed to catch, but  I found  the Vera in the book sufficiently similar to Brenda Blethyn's portrayal, except that the book has no reference to her sounding like a boy, whose voice is breaking, strangling a cat in a high wind.

What struck me most was that it was simply an excellent book, defying genre definition as the best crime novels do, knee-deep in atmosphere and perceptive character studies. In fact, as Vera doesn’t actually come into it until about halfway through, I’d forgotten what sort of book I was reading and her sudden appearance startled me. Of the three, it’s the only one that left me wanting to move on to the next book in the series.

Now, back to ITV3, while waiting for the call to adapt one of my books...

Sunday, 16 February 2020

My Favourite Poems XII: Gerard Manley Hopkins

Favourite poem, no.12 of a dozen, although really it's no.1. Actually I could have picked 12 of GMH's poems as my favourites, but if there's just one, it has to be this one. I know a windhover is really a kestrel, but I think of this poem whenever I see buzzards playing on thermals above my garden for the sheer hell of it. Or when I'm watching the last flicker of a dying fire.

Windhover

I caught this morning morning's minion, kingdom of daylight's
Dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, - the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shèer plòd makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold vermilion.

Gerard Manley Hopkins