My sister in Canada is under the knife for an extreme and virulent form of cancer. A friend across the road is dying of an incurable disease. The golden autumn has turned to wind and rain. The sun aint going to shine anymore. But there is the daughter’s wedding plans and a granddaughter in her three year old pomp who amuse. And a walk along the Thames.
The path from Putney to Richmond is about seven miles long. It’s a grand walk. Suburban at first but when the river is high as it was the day I walked ,there is always a rowing scull, a swan or a heron that can amuse.
Because it is damp, grey and raining , I am almost alone on the tow path. One doesn’t walk for company,its great. And after Kew Bridge with Syon Park on one bank and Kew Gardens the other, the walk hints at Arcady. That is the orderly type that Capability Brown created for his clients of which the king at Kew was one.
But something even better happens. Two swans,three feet above the swollen flow, fly down towards the church on the Isleworth bend. All Saints may now be closed to worshippers but its Norman tower still tells the time.
But it is the swans with their leisurely majestic fly by that catch the heart. Their long necks propelled by a slow ,aristocratic,flap. Yeats talks of the “great wings beating” and the “bell beat of their wings” and how “I have looked upon these brilliant creatures, And now my heart is sore”. The birds so pure that they must be doomed, beat up river in the autumn grey. The golden autumn is now turning into slush but for a moment all is still.
Elsewhere those that make up strands in the cob web of my life lie close to the end, farthest from their source. To ask for whom the bell beat of the swans’ wings toll, would be , to waste precious breath .