by Gillian Clarke
Login is a small village in Carmarthenshire. The title and first three lines of description set the scene for the story of how a return visit to the village results in a surprising and romantic discovery. The words portray a pretty village deep in a valley at the foot of a steep, wooded hill. The day is hot. It is summer. All this is sketched in the first 3 lines.
The story is told from the point of view of the poet, the ‘I’ in lines 4 and 5. Then verse 2, line 2, introduces a second person, a woman who opens her cottage door to the poet’s knock. They don’t know each other, but the poet hopes that the woman will remember her father. The place is connected with her father’s youth. The poem suggests that her father is dead.
Although the poem does not say so, you can infer from verses 2 and 3 that the woman who opens the door and lets the strangers in does indeed remember him. His name is enough for the poet and her young son to ‘gain entry’. The welcome is warm. The woman brings tea, spreads a lace cloth - a special cloth for important visitors - on the table. She ‘ruffles my son’s brown hair’, an intimate action which suggests that she sees in the boy someone she once loved. The fact that past love is hinted at but not spoken of lies in the atmosphere, the language chosen, the mood of the poem. There are hints in those ‘glances converging’ that ‘could not span such giddy water’. Love lies in language like ‘headlong fall’, ‘fast water’, ‘the bridge burns’, ‘brilliance’. The landscape is described in a passionate language.
In the final verse the boy runs down the lane to the bridge while the two women linger, saying goodbye. The poet imagines her son, many years later, looking back on this day and remembering how he saw his mother and the woman standing in the sun. He might think of it like an old photograph, just as his mother thinks of the past love between her father and this elderly woman as being like a faded sepia photograph from another age.
I am fascinated by the way the past, present and future can converge in one place. This poem has something in common with ‘Siege’, where I make connections between the past and the present as well between the ‘here’ of the poem and something happening at that moment far away.