The mossy quietness

This poem caught my eye because of its title – in my genealogical novels, the Radwinter family’s maternal side are the Magicks.

This poem is full of splendid imagery – magic indeed!


I love a still conservatory
That’s full of giant, breathless palms,
Azaleas, clematis and vines,
Whose quietness great trees becalms
Filling the air with foliage,
A curved and dreamy statuary.

I like to hear a cold, pure rill
Of water trickling low, afar
With sudden little jerks and purls
Into a tank or stoneware jar,
The song of a tiny sleeping bird
Held like a shadow in its trill.

I love the mossy quietness
That grows upon the great stone flags,
The dark tree-ferns, the staghorn ferns,
The prehistoric, antlered stags
That carven stand and stare among
The silent, ferny wilderness.

And are they birds or souls that flit
Among the trees so silently,
And are they fish or ghosts that haunt
The still pools of the rockery!–
For I am but a sculptured rock
As in that magic place I sit.

Still as a great jewel is the air
With boughs and leaves smooth-carved in it,
And rocks and trees and giant ferns,
And blooms with inner radiance lit,
And naked water like a nymph
That dances tireless slim and bare.

I watch a white Nyanza float
Upon a green, untroubled pool,
A fairyland Ophelia, she
Has cast herself in water cool,
And lies while fairy cymbals ring
Drowned in her fairy castle moat.

The goldfish sing a winding song
Below her pale and waxen face,
The water-nymph is dancing by
Lifting smooth arms with mournful grace,
A stainless white dream she floats on
While fairies beat a fairy gong.

Silent the Cattleyas blaze
And thin red orchid shapes of Death
Peer savagely with twisted lips
Sucking an eerie, phantom breath
With that bright, spotted, fever’d lust
That watches lonely travellers craze.

Gigantic, mauve and hairy leaves
Hang like obliterated faces
Full of dim unattained expression
Such as haunts virgin forest places
When Silence leaps among the trees
And the echoing heart deceives.

Walter James Redfern Turner

I haven’t been able to discover what Nyanza is… it is an African word meaning lake, but also the name of several places – including the capital of the Kingdom of Rwanda from 1958 to 1962 – and since then the site of a terrible massacre during the ghastly genocide. There is also a region of Kenya called Nyanza.  I am guessing that in the poem it might be a water lily – ‘a white Nyanza float
upon a green, untroubled pool… Cattleyas however, I have discovered, are orchids with large and sometimes fragrant flowers.

Here is a link to my novel, Magick… which doesn’t feature lilies or orchids, although the main character Thomas Radwinter buys roses for his wife every week.


    1. Lois

      I think it must have been the name of a plant which has died out of use (the name not the plant) That’s interesting about the place in Swansea… it’s a pretty name actually!


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