GW ( / )

March 28, 1941

Whom did you leave behind, Virginia,
When the voices summoned you
Into the river and you strode down,
Stout stones filling the pockets of your overcoat?

Who was this quiet man who shielded you
From the world and its vagaries,
Until the world in his absence
Stormed the unguarded walls of your mind?

Who was this docile man who loved you
More than most men’s pride would let them,
Proposing three times before at last
Receiving your reluctant, laughing consent.

Who was this trembling man who fought
So firmly and steadfastly for your love?
Did he feel he had won, between all the losses,
First to you, then to Vita, and then to the voices?

Did he find solace in the note you left,
Or instead in a kitchen printing press,
An arm-load of books, a turban and blackface,
And a now-broken circle of friends?

“Nothing matters, ” he said, “and everything matters.”
So, was his life spoiled or was it fulfilled
The day before he found your cane
By the banks of the River Ouse?

User Rating: 5,0 / 5 ( 7 votes ) 7

Comments (7)

A great tribute to a great writer - Virginia Woolf!
Gary.... it may be that I love this poem more each time I read it.....thank you... Love, D.
The last line of the first stanza...the stout stones filling the pockets of the overcoat...chilled me to the bone. It shows such an intent of purpose, doesn't it? Very chilling...
Gary, I found the first half and the final stanza excellent with the remaining two just a shade below, I hope you don't mind me saying - as you would no doubt be aware yourself. Understandable perhaps that the standard of the first three couldn't quite be maintained. You weave the suicide in subtly and hauntingly - appropriate for one who wrote that 'death is woven in with the violets' - and give due emphasis to the relationships with the other principal characters, and possible mental illness dimension. The haunting quality of course is generated very effectively by the stark and appropriate questioning at the opening of each stanza. The river isn't an overwhelming presence but you have it there clearly enough, flowing in the background from beginning to end, as Bloomsbury came to a close of sorts with the finding of the cane - a delicate touch to bring it to completion, as the river runs on. I read most of her stuff nearly thirty years ago, and am encouraged by this to go back and have another look. Thank you for that. Great theme and treatment, and all in all a very fine poem indeed, by a real poet. jim
And yet another brilliantly crafted poem, Gary. This is superb.
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