Eclipse the Eclipse?

Here’s a new poem from Bert Biscoe, Cornish poet, songwriter, mover, shaker and getter of things done. Bert wrote it at the end of the day which had been heralded as one when we would experience a partial eclipse of the sun. Bert reports: “In Truro it was a bit of a damp squib; the light adopted a slightly steely quality, as if it was about to rain, and the gulls were stirred to great anxiety overhead. Many shops closed and staff stood around in the street. Then we all trooped off to our meetings and our counters and our commerce.”
     By way of background, Bert adds: “Passmore Edwards was a Victorian philanthropist who made a couple of fortunes and built libraries, convalescent homes and schools – many of which still stand and are much used throughout Cornwall today.”
     I remember as a boy spending hours in the Passmore Edwards Library in Liskeard, borrowing the adventure yarns of G.A. Henty, the “Biggles” stories by Captain W.E. Johns about the heroic air ace, and the Leslie Charteris tales of The Saint, dashing adventurer and doer of good. Art Snell was the librarian, and he told me that the first volume of Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was often borrowed but the next 5 volumes stayed on their shelf.
     Edward Gibbon was Member of Parliament for Liskeard from 1774-80. This was thanks to Edward Eliot (the main character in The Miner & the Viscount) whose wife Catherine was Gibbon’s cousin.
     Here is Bert Biscoe’s poem:


A break in the monotonous day

From Eclipse Street we step through philanthropic doors

Flanked by grandly composed declarations in marble

Of generosities – we talk and think thanks under-tongue,

Inward, least spoken gratitudes, slight quips of breath,

Marked for Octavius and Passmore –

Such men may never grace the Lodge again!


Engineers wrought plastic art to break the great wall

Between Library and Education, Dream and Occupation,

And we stride past catalogued shelves,

Through carousels of earnest commendation –

A civilian copse of titles chanted –

Light from flourished stairwell glass defies eclipse

And austerity dries the lips of book-worn maids

Outcast by despots of digital modernisation –

I stand-to and seek a face, recognition,

A faded eye, one who,

From some distant exchange long-passed,

Mouths ‘Hello!’ over supervisory epaulette –

We each blink a question, resign

Response, accountants cluck, indicators

Flicker, Time consumes librarian-prey,

And marks threaten a second already

Blemished sheet ‘Upstairs!’ I turn away!


The stairs pass borough arms stained by donor’s will,

Each Cornish town’s tale etched in mystic creature

And Herald’s bridges, castles, harbours, fields –

At halfway first-floor-landing Cornish light illumines

Cornish cities set in Victorian glass, they flood ‘Old School –

Trurra Tech!’ and its young artisans’ technical minds –

Masterly voices echo times’-table and foreign verbs

Decline in shadow – outside, disappointment grasps eclipse,

Imperious spires disperse suited toe-capped officials

And coffee-chatty-patent-heeled shop assistants.


Still the fear of established church,

The faithless might again

Erect druidic stones and clasp

The star’s satanic hand and dance – but……

These boroughs’ stamps impress our cards,

A photographic light of pinhole failure

Brightens, order shrouds we sheep, our fold –

The town returns to cold stairs climbed,

Colleagues gather in the Medium Room:

We begin our essential discourse of process –

Lights in salaried hearts flicker, hangovers

Wash over brown memories between trees

Through tumbled inner woods, talk turns

To technicalities, we trade our bargained time.


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