Thursday, May 27, 2010

Down the Rabbit Hole

When life gets a bit too complicated, there's nothing for it but to dive down the nearest rabbit hole, so that's what we did today. We drove to Plymouth again, across the river by chain ferry (again), but this time we only drove two miles farther, to Antony House, an 18th century mansion that (and this was a surprise to us) is where the latest "Alice in Wonderland" movie was filmed. The house and grounds are beautiful, and we spent a delightful day there. Children from a local primary school were running all over the grounds, being children, and that just added to the fun.

Once we'd had our cuppa in the tea room, we wandered out into the formal gardens, where we met Alice right away. I must say, she had rather a stern look about her. She was also alarmingly large. Larger still was this fellow who guarded the entrance.

We weren't allowed to take photographs inside the house. Suffice it to say that it was very grand and full of dark paneling, except in some of the bedrooms. The room where Prince Charles used to sleep when he visited is still dark-paneled, but a lot of the other rooms have been painted in brighter colours, apparently by Wrens who were billeted there during World War II.

The present lady of the house is a lady-in-waiting to Princess Anne, who still stays at Antony House on occasion. I gather she sleeps in one of the brighter rooms.

We saw Alice's room, too. It's one of the small bedrooms at the end of the hallway -- quite a pretty little room.

My favourite place was the saloon. There was a contemporary painting on the east wall. It was inspired by a Rupert Brooke poem entitled Oh: Death Will Find Me.  I've been unable to find the painting online. The artist's name is Christopher Le Brun.  I sat in a window seat and painstakingly copied the poem out, only to find it at Here it is, in the body of the post -- because I have other plans for the sidebar poem.

Oh! Death Will Find Me
by Rupert Brooke

Oh! Death will find me, long before I tire
Of watching you; and swing me suddenly
Into the shade and loneliness and mire
Of the last land! There, waiting patiently,

One day, I think, I'll feel a cool wind blowing,
See a slow light across the Stygian tide,
And hear the Dead about me stir, unknowing,
And tremble. And I shall know that you have died,

And watch you, a broad-browed and smiling dream,
Pass, light as ever, through the lightless host,
Quietly ponder, start, and sway, and gleam --
Most individual and bewildering ghost! --

And turn, and toss your brown delightful head
Amusedly, among the ancient Dead. 

I found the poem moving - and startling in places. The final stanza is wonderful, don't you think?

Most of the time, though, we were out in the garden. My "Flower of the Moment" spot on the sidebar will be filled for some time to come. Besides the flowers, though, there were the most magnificent trees - like this 200-year-old black walnut and a magical avenue of trees, down which I could imagine a white rabbit running, checking his pocket watch.
Oh, and speaking of white rabbits, there's a grandfather clock on the back lawn, out of which a clockwork rabbit pops once an hour. He scurries around the clock, fretting about how late he is -- to the delight of the crowd that gathers to await his appearance.

It was a great day -- and a much-needed distraction from our travel worries -- which have now been at least somewhat resolved. Our wonderful travel agent managed to contact British Airways, who have put us on an Air Canada flight leaving London on June 4 - only five days late. It's an inconvenience, but it's not a disaster.


Maribeth said...

Glad you fixed your travel plans.
Todays post was charming and calming. Can't wait to see what you will do with the sidebar.
Giggles and Guns

Barry said...

You certainly found the silver lining to the dark clouds of your travel plans. What a fascinating and memorable estate to visit.

John Hayes said...

What a delightful outing--& I do very much like the Brooke poem. Also glad to hear that your travel plans have fallen into place!

Karen said...

I love Rupert Brooke's work. I haven't read him for ages. How delightful that you found him here. Now I want to find that painting.

Sandra Leigh said...

Maribeth, LOL, I meant only that I had a different poem in mind for the sidebar -- now I need to get more ambitious, eh?

Barry and John -- yes, it was altogether a great find. Of course, National Trust sites are always interesting -- but Alice? Perfect.

Karen, I hope you do find the painting, though it was commissioned by the owner of Antony House, so quite possibly it's never been displayed except there. It is a forest scene with a ghostly figure floating in it, and its name is the same as the poem's.

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