In Memory of Robin King


The gardens gone, the orange trees

No longer scented by the sun,

The islands silent, and the cries

Of nightingales forever done:

     So seems your life to those

     For whom the transient rose

          Is meaningless.

So seems your life. And yet your life has now begun.


The walls you climbed, the forts you built,

The dog that barked behind you, and

The sea-weed treasures left to wilt

While boats were rigged along the sand:

     Were those the memories spelt

     By childhood, which you felt

          Later were spoilt

If mentioned? Happiness too great to understand?


The war at random took your youth,

Put it to boredom, dressed in blue.

The Air Force gave its airy truth:

‘Be kind, and all will honour you.’

     And kindness blended with

     A boy’s charm was the myth

          You read beneath

The casual telling of and demonstrated true.


The war seemed over. You survived,

Though with those wounds that rarely show -

The wounds the laughing have contrived

To hide from all they do not know,

     And so are soon outbraved.

     But those your goodness saved

          Were not deceived.

They saw the hurt swan struggling through the afterglow.


Some write with ease and some do not.

Your books like letters from the sad

Troubled your thoughts for answer. A lot

Of those who write have never had

     Your worries to beset

     Them, never tried to get

          The word to fit

On English days in Spain, no sunlight overhead.



The reading and the writing stop;

The laughter and the odd good-looks

Vanish, it seems, forever. Hope

Is absent from the current books.

     And yet your friends will heap

     Forget-me-nots and keep

          Your memory. I shape

A tall, still living, figure, when remembrance wakes.


Ah, Robin, in those gardens where

Men who were kind to others are,

How does that blue and brilliant air

Compare with Spain and England, where

     You lived a little while?

     The nightingales compile

          Their praise. The real

Rose opens to your heart. And vanquished is the war.