Whithorn Manse

Whithorn Manse

I knew it as Eden,
that lost walled garden,
past the green edge
of priory and village;
and, bejond it, the house,
whithdrawn, white,
one window alight.

Returning, I wonder,
idly, uneasily,
what eyes from inside
look out now, not in,
as once mine did,
and what might grant me
a right of entry?

Is it never dead, then,
that need of an Eden?

Even this evening,
estranged by age,
I ogle that light
with a child’s greed,
wistfully claiming
lost perogatives
of homecoming.

Alastair Reid was born at the manse in Whithorn in 1926. Since World War Two he has lived in the United States, France, Spain, Greece, Switzerland and Central and Southern America.

He has published over twenty books – poetry, translations, collections of prose and books for children – and has himself been much translated. Since 1951, he has contributed to the New Yorker Magazine which, with his other work has established for him a worldwide reputation.

Whithorn Business Association sought funds to have a number of plaques sited in the town to record aspects of Whithorn’s history and honour its more famous inhabitants. This plaque is on Bruce Street, the road to the Church, where his father was minister, and to the manse, Alastair Reid’s first home.

On 7th October 1999, as part of National Poetry Day, the poem was published as a postcard.

First published October 2009

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