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Robert Sutcliffe: Poetry that failed to please

Dying father who did not appreciate Browning

Robert Browning
Robert Browning

As my father David lay dying several years ago I wondered how I could cheer him up.

We had a complex relationship so it wasn’t an easy decision.

He was an intensely religious man while I was more a wine, women and song kind of guy so there was an insurmountable barrier that we could never bridge.

Despite that we had an affectionate bond that could never be broken.

Eventually I decided to recite one of his favourite poems – the first verse of Robert Browning’s celebrated Home Thoughts from Abroad: ‘Oh, to be in England now that April’s there, and whoever wakes in England, sees, some morning, unaware, that the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf

Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf, while the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough In England—now!’

To my mortification as I sat on the bed and began reciting the poem he clapped both hands over his ears and shouted: “Oh no, not that. Please.”

He died shortly afterwards.


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