Poetry Journal

Issues / Volume 5 Issue 1 , July 2015


At Castle Howard

Stephen Smithyman

  That afternoon we arrived late—too late 
  for admittance—but failed to heed
  the Head Gardener’s suggestion we return
  some other time. Instead, we walked
  around the front lawn, admiring the great
  Baroque pile of the house and the view
  of its private wood, lake and immense tract
  of surrounding countryside—no other 
  house in sight—while the kids fed a pony
  they found in a small enclosure down
  by the lake. We walked to the back of the house,
  where we admired the formal garden,
  with its fountain sculpture of Atlas, holding
  the world up, all by himself, another
  immense, empty tract of surrounding country
  and the slope, awash with daffodils, leading 
  to the Temple of the Four Winds, while the kids 
  chased peacocks between hedgerows.
  The sun set and the evening air was freezing,
  so we turned to go, but not before we saw
  one tired peacock make its heavy-tailed way
  up the steps to the great French windows
  of the Garden Hall to stand in lonely splendour—
  that perfect image of the aristocracy—
  lost in contemplation of its reflection in the glass.