Standing where Popocatapetl In the sunlight gleams

I am ashamed to say that the author of this poem, so well-remembered and loved from childhood, is not who I thought he was! For some reason, I thought this poem was written by John Masefield! How shocking! Masefield is one of my favourite poets, and I really thought ‘Romance’ was written by him – maybe confusing it with ‘Cargoes’ and its magnificent opening line, ‘Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir’…

But no, ‘Romance’ was written by Walter J. Turner – and I’m doubly ashamed that I know nothing about the poet who wrote this verse! Walter James Redfern Turner born in 1889 was an Australian who came to England when he was eighteen and became acquainted with, then associated with and then very much involved with such writers as  Sassoon,  Woolf and Sackville-West. This must be his best known poem:


When I was but thirteen or so
I went into a golden land,
Chimborazo, Cotopaxi
Took me by the hand.

My father died, my brother too,
They passed like fleeting dreams,
I stood where Popocatapetl
In the sunlight gleams.

I dimly heard the master’s voice
And boys far-off at play,
Chimborazo, Cotopaxi
Had stolen me away.

I walked in a great golden dream
To and fro from school
Shining Popocatapetl
The dusty streets did rule

I walked home with a gold dark boy
And never a word I’d say,
Chimborazo, Cotopaxi
Had taken my speech away.

I gazed entranced upon his face
Fairer than any flower—
O shining Popocatapetl
It was thy magic hour:

The houses, people, traffic seemed
Thin fading dreams by day;
Chimborazo, Cotopaxi,
They had stolen my soul away!


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