Comrades in action.
Together took we keen and sharp delight
In racing limbs and outstretched arms and hands,
In every cell obedient to command.
The sudden thrill and ecstasy of head
Thrown backwards to the buffeting of the wind.
I have seen Nature through your eyes,
Its beauty – wind and fire and sun and rain,
Heard by your ears and spoke through your lips.
And now regretting it we two shall go
Splendid into the darkness, naked, free,
But for a little while; then you shall be
Dust blown about the windways of the world,
And I a sigh in all Eternity.
My Aged Poet died on Wednesday. It was very gentle, very peaceful, and I have no doubt that she had a very good death, with caring people around her. I saw her a few hours beforehand, so I had a chance to say goodbye, and she looked like a little bird curled in the bed, breathing with her eyes closed.
She had turned 92 just the week before, and because she was almost completely blind, I'd taken her the smelliest bunch of flowers I could find: jonquils, sweet peas, freesias and hyacinths. Thank goodness for florists who can access spring flowers in winter! I wanted her to dream of flower-filled meadows, to wake up to glorious scents. It was a good present for someone who had everything and needed nothing.
The poem above was written in her teens, and published in a small book that she set and printed herself at her school, also making the linocut that graced the cover. She always joked that the book should be called Smeop, because she forgot to reverse the title text in her initial attempt. It was published in 1937, when she was 17. That's over 75 years of poetry, peoples, that's a pretty good innings.
Not only had she got past her birthday, she'd also seen her complete Collected updated and republished by UQP this year, released in April. After that, it's no wonder she let go. It was time to catch up with her husband, Alec Bolton, who died in 1996. He ran his own private press, Brindabella Press, which produced over 23 fine press books, and it was through his printing and design sense that I got to know him, and consequently her.
I can't believe it's been 15 years since I started helping Rosemary sort Alec's papers, and then her papers, a weekly session that moved away from literary help to more simple things like going shopping, sitting out in the sun and reading aloud, and finally holding her hand at the bedside and telling her about the world outside, persistently moving on as she slowed down. I learned a hell of a lot from her: about poetry, poets, the 1940s, art, discipline, dignity and also about Standards, among other things. We didn't always see eye to eye, but those struggles are always the interesting parts of friendship.
I can't think of her passing as a tragedy; she lived long and well and was loved, it's as much as anyone can ask for. My thoughts are with her family right now: she will leave a large hole.
There is a wonderful obituary here. The photo was taken by her son, Rob; It's lovely and informal.