Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Poem written by Katherine Mansfield after her brother's death in 1915.

Her brother dead some months after her visit to Carco in Grey earlier in the year.   It may be that meeting her brother again, KM's thoughts turned back to childhood and New Zealand, ('W were home again') and were at least in part, the inspiration for her best known stories, The Garden Party, At the Bay, Prelude.  And they may be triggered her fascination with the interrelation between life and death in the mind, and her questioning of the nature of the self.

The last line of the poem alludes to the death of Christ, of course, but also to a poem by the seventeenth century poet, George Herbert who's poem called 'Love' ends,  'So I did sit and eat.'   

TO LHB 1894-1915
Last night for the first time since you were dead 
I walked with you, my brother, in a dream. 
We were at home again beside the stream 
Fringed with tall berry bushes, white and red. 
“Don't touch them: they are poisonous,” I said. 
But your hand hovered, and I saw a beam 
Of strange, bright laughter flying round your head 
And as you stooped I saw the berries gleam. 
“Don't you remember? We called them Dead Man's Bread!” 
I woke and heard the wind moan and the roar 
Of the dark water tumbling on the shore. 
Where -- where is the path of my dream for my eager feet? 
By the remembered stream my brother stands 
Waiting for me with berries in his hands...
“These are my body. Sister, take and eat.”

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