I've been visiting a number of National Trust properties during my travels in England this year. One former stately-home inspired this piece of verse.
A walnut table dominates
the panelled room, dark as a scowl,
where gloomy stags stare, glassy-eyed,
from rosewood mounts with dull brass plates.
We gather round the genteel Guide
to gaze at oils where foxhounds howl
in hunting scenes as, endlessly,
red-coated men hurrah and bray,
sup stirrup-cups, slap riding crops,
while, over meadows, foxes flee.
On mantlepiece and sideboard tops
old photographs are on display
of tweedy chaps, posed ankle-deep
in broken birds, caps raised in cheers,
or coltish girls in evening dress,
their eyes as innocent as sheep,
all champagne, laughter and largesse,
dead now, it must be fifty years.
We stand there, pale suburbanites,
and marvel at the upper class,
strange creatures from a world long gone.
Those peers, the debs, the gartered knights
against the odds, they linger on
like cut-flowers wilting in a glass.