A Map of the Western Part of the County of Essex in England

By Denise Levertov 1923–1997 Denise Levertov
Something forgotten for twenty years: though my fathers   
and mothers came from Cordova and Vitepsk and Caernarvon,   
and though I am a citizen of the United States and less a   
stranger here than anywhere else, perhaps,
I am Essex-born:
Cranbrook Wash called me into its dark tunnel,
the little streams of Valentines heard my resolves,
Roding held my head above water when I thought it was   
drowning me; in Hainault only a haze of thin trees
stood between the red doubledecker buses and the boar-hunt,   
the spirit of merciful Phillipa glimmered there.
Pergo Park knew me, and Clavering, and Havering-atte-Bower,
Stanford Rivers lost me in osier beds, Stapleford Abbots
sent me safe home on the dark road after Simeon-quiet evensong,
Wanstead drew me over and over into its basic poetry,
in its serpentine lake I saw bass-viols among the golden dead leaves,
through its trees the ghost of a great house. In
Ilford High Road I saw the multitudes passing pale under the   
light of flaring sundown, seven kings
in somber starry robes gathered at Seven Kings
the place of law
where my birth and marriage are recorded
and the death of my father. Woodford Wells
where an old house was called The Naked Beauty (a white   
statue forlorn in its garden)
saw the meeting and parting of two sisters,
(forgotten? and further away
the hill before Thaxted? where peace befell us? not once   
but many times?).
All the Ivans dreaming of their villages
all the Marias dreaming of their walled cities,
picking up fragments of New World slowly,
not knowing how to put them together nor how to join   
image with image, now I know how it was with you, an old map
made long before I was born shows ancient
rights of way where I walked when I was ten burning with desire
for the world's great splendors, a child who traced voyages   
indelibly all over the atlas, who now in a far country   
remembers the first river, the first
field, bricks and lumber dumped in it ready for building,   
that new smell, and remembers
the walls of the garden, the first light.

Denise Levertov, “A Map of the Western Part of the County of Essex in England” from Poems 1960-1967. Copyright © 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966 by Denise Levertov. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation, www.wwnorton.com/nd/welcome.htm.

Source: Poetry (April 1960).

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This poem originally appeared in the April 1960 issue of Poetry magazine

April 1960
 Denise  Levertov

Biography

During the course of a prolific career, Denise Levertov created a highly regarded body of poetry that reflects her beliefs as an artist and a humanist. Her work embraces a wide variety of genres and themes, including nature lyrics, love poems, protest poetry, and poetry inspired by her faith in God. "Dignity, reverence, and strength are words that come to mind as one gropes to characterize . . . one of America's most respected . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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