Driving back from rowing yesterday I switched the radio on and caught this poem, part of a 'words and music' compilation without any information. I was caught by the rowing reference and held by the bittersweet metaphor of the tide. Clearly by Betjeman, but not a work I knew. So I looked it up and here it is, with its lovely description of the Beaulieu River at dawn:
Early sun on Beaulieu water
Lights the undersides of oaks,
Clumps of leaves it floods and blanches,
All transparent glow the branches
Which the double sunlight soaks;
To her craft on Beaulieu water
Clemency the General's daughter
Pulls across with even strokes.
Schoolboy-sure she is this morning;
Soon her sharpie's rigg'd and free.
Cool beneath a garden awning
Mrs. Fairclough, sipping tea
And raising large long-distance glasses
As the little sharpie passes,
Sighs our sailor girl to see:
Tulip figure, so appealing,
Oval face, so serious-eyed,
Tree-roots pass'd and muddy beaches.
On to huge and lake-like reaches,
Soft and sun-warm, see her glide -
Slacks the slim young limbs revealing,
Sun-brown arm the tiller feeling -
With the wind and with the tide.
Evening light will bring the water,
Day-long sun will burst the bud,
Clemency, the General's daughter,
Will return upon the flood.
But the older woman only
Knows the ebb-tide leaves her lonely
With the shining fields of mud.