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Bits and bobs about my life in my lovely home, Thatchwick Cottage, Pretoria, South Africa.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Wednesday, 2 July:Vita Sackville-West


I am currently listening to a tape reading of the charming collection of gardening articles by Vita Sackville-West, the English poet, gardener and novelist (1892-1962). Vita's life was colourful and bohemian: born to third baron of Sackville, she grew up at Knole Castle in Kent. Her childhood was unconventional; she was educated privately. Her otherwise distant father took her on long country walks and discussed science and Darwin. As a debutante she mixed with the Prince of Wales adorned with Cartier jewellery at Buckingham Palace. She married the diplomat, Harold Nicholson in 1913. After a stint in Contantinople they returned to England and eventually bought Sissinghurst Castle in 1930 in an almost derelict state. This is where Vita planted her famous white, grey and green garden. I have never been there - just read about it. She is, of course, also known for her love affair with the ill fated Virginial Woolf and her novel, Orlando.

The photo in side bar is of Nuttery at Sissinghurst, a wild copse of hazel trees that grow denser as spring turns to summer.

Living amongst the bright, bold, extravagant colours of southern African gardens, I admire the dedicated discipline of a gardener who could restrain herself to a colour scheme of mainly white.

Here is a poem by Vita. I echo her sentiments in the first few lines; not the rest!

- Days I enjoy
Days I enjoy are days when nothing happens,
When I have no engagements written on my block,
When no one comes to disturb my inward peace,
When no one comes to take me away from myself
and turn me into a patchwork, a jig-saw puzzle,
A broken mirror that once gave a whole reflection,
Being so contrived that it takes too long a time
To get myself back to myself when they have gone.
The years are too strictly measured, and life too short
for me to afford such bits of myself to my friends.
And what have I to give my friends in the last resort?
An awkwardness, a shyness and a scrap
No thing that's truly me, a bootless waste,
A waste of myself and them for my life is mine
and theirs presumably theirs, and cannot touch.

8 comments:

Susan said...

Many thank you's for the thoughtful award. Sending extra hugs to your two handsome labs Trist & Gal who both remind me so much of my much loved boy Jake. Love from Nova Scotia xo, S & Winn

willow said...

This poem is wonderful, Eleanor! I am saving it for my collection. Vita is totally new to me! Her portrait is exquisite.

Dee Dee said...

Interesting poem Eleanor...Vita seems somehow sad...a person that has way to many demands made on them....years too strickly measured, life too short....Always a lovely post my friend...

We're off to the mountains for a few days...will catch your post when I return...Best wishes...

willow said...

I have been reading some of Vita's poetry online and am completely enthralled! I must have a book of her poetry...off to Amazon...

Grand Life said...

lxlThank you so much for the award. I'm so new at this I'm not quite sure what to do. I think I copy the award to my blog (which I will have to do when I get to the library next week as we have dial-up internet access at the cabin). If I need any help I'll be sure and ask.
I have read Vita's history and also 2 other books about her. I have visited Sissinghurst and the fabled "white garden". It was as beautiful as the pictures. We spent a couple of hours there and I could have stayed a week. Also visited her childhood home and took the tour. I love all things English and we have visited 3 times on home exchanges in the past 12 years. I hope against hope that we will return again one day. Thank you again for the award.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

We love Vita over here! Her gardening books are wonderful.

Edward has judiciously made his selections for passing on your sweet award! Thank you again for honoring us in this way!

Best wishes for a good day!

Mary said...

I'm familiar with Vita and the Sissinghurst gardens - but have not visited unfortunately. I love white and green gardens, especially at dusk when they take on an ethereal look and feeling. Right now I have a lot of pink blooming - see my post today - along with white and purple these are colors I enjoy with many different shades of green.

I feel as you do about the first four lines of this poem - but find is gets harder and harder to experience 'alone days' as there is always something needing to be done involving others!

Enjoy your weekend Eleanor - when will you off on your trip?

KarenHarveyCox said...

Thank you for the introduction to a wonderful poet. I love that poem, I can almost guess what age she was when she wrote that. I look forward to researching her poetry more. As always you have such interesting things to share on your blog. Karen