19 AUGUST 1989, Page 28

The Begging-bowl

It cannot matter much how I grew up, Housed in this body which is now so thin A parapet for me to lean upon.

Fall I must: and with me will go down The entire empire of my former days.

Look, sun, upon my last, and so you be The Light which made the world, I have my part.

It is a public country that I want And so indeed it was, the world I had, Growing from nothing to the edge of doom.

But what was in between?

The hope and love I had in fields and moors, In hills, in waters lashing on the coast.

The coast of where? And where but you, 0 England, Which name has gathered all my hopes and loves.

Changed like a dream, the land which never was And yet to which I gave my dearest wish Which contained all the wishes that I had, The contents of my begging-bowl, perhaps, Into which time had thrown so many things, So many persons, a few held most dear, A many who had helped to make them so, Whether as tributary to the stream of time Or as companions as I swam along, Given rather than chosen: it is as a gift We love those whom we love, and not by choice, For choice is but our own, and what we love Is other, other which we inly crave, Not to be what we are and who we are Which is the nothing which we brought with us, The nothing that we take out of the world. C. H. Sisson