A prose-poem written in praise of Vita Sackville-West and in appreciation for her inspiration as a pioneer.
Just three months before my own pioneering life began in August 1962 on the homefront in the Canadian Baha’i community, Vita Sackville-West passed away. A pioneer herself, in quite a different sense of course than my own pioneering experience, she was born just months before the passing of Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, in 1892.
In many ways her pioneering life was a polar-opposite, certainly a strikingly different one, to my own adventure across two continents. Her first love affair was with a house, then a husband, then several lesbian relationships, one of which was with the famous writer Virginia Woolf and, finally, with a garden at Sissinghurst Castle in rural Kent. My love affairs were with baseball, then the Baha’i Faith and finally with an assortment of people and things: Judy Gower and Christine Sheldrick in two marriages, a long career in teaching and, finally, with learning and the cultural attainments of the mind. In this last category, especially writing and especially poetry, Vita Sackville-West and I shared an equal love and passion.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs,11 January 2008 with thanks to ABC TV: “National Trust: Garden Treasures, ” 10 Jan.2008,6: 00-7: 00 p.m.
I never shared your love of gardening,
Vita, nor your ardent Latin temperament.
My garden was always one of words like
yours tended tenderly and now famously
famous. My temperament was Welsh—
English, coloured by a bipolar disorder.
We both ran against convention’s grain,
possessed an exuberance, complexity of
character, a strong marriage and wrote
endless reams of poetry over many years.
In the process we both produced a rich
and varied body of work amidst life’s
turmoil but, in the end, whatever we did
and whatever we were-first and foremost
we were poets—wouldn’t you say, Vita?
I must say, though, Vita, you were in
the major league of writers while I was
but a minor player with a minor role, in
a minor key. Time will tell, of course,
eh Vita? What do you think Vita from
your place now in the land of lights
where gardens of endless splendour
adorn your days, I trust, Vita, I trust.
You changed the face of gardening1
while I spread the seeds of a new Order
that would, in time, change the face of
this earth, containing as these seeds did
the fruits and blossoms of consecrated joy
and enable their gardeners to labor serenely,
confidently and unremittently, as you did in
your garden, to produce a Place of exquisite
and most delightful beauty for the millions.
1 Victoria Glendinning, Vita; the Life of V. Sackville-West, Weidenfeld & Nicholson,1983.
11 January 2008
Leopards at Knole
Leopards on the gable-ends, Leopards on the painted stair, Stiff the blazoned shield they bear, Or and gules, a bend of vair, Leopards on the gable-ends, Leopards everywhere.
Guard and vigil in the night While the ancient house is sleeping