Nicholas's affair with the captivating Clare is not progressing well. In fact it's not progressing at all, despite a summer holiday together in Italy where they do all that could be expected of a well-bred and cultivated couple: tour around, visit galleries and churches, follow up invitations and dine out in romantic settings. Back home in England, Nicholas is even more perplexed when Clare takes up with a young socialite who dabbles in banking. What is the budding art historian to do?
Friends come to the rescue with research for a Fragonard drawing that take our two once more to Italy, but now with a keener appreciation of each other.
An affectionate look at the antics and follies of the English upper-middle classes — a sort of Three Weddings and A Funeral in verse.
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We start. This opening coda introduces
a fitful world of characters who, dance
or dawdle, still fall over, make excuses:
'her, the other fool, mere happenstance.'
Or so it seems in reminiscence: time
that was so prodigal, so cosseting,
takes no more care of us than midnight's chime
of old year's ending changes anything.
(Not an image, that, to shed much light,
but here we call for coats and bid goodnight.)
So to our story, which has started well.
There is no better way, as you'll agree,
than have whole days together's work compel
these two still touring on in Italy
for churches, galleries, good food and space
to stop and think about each other, let
the unmapped evening hold their pulse's race
to what might happen after dinner. Yet
that passed, then drinks, without sulk or glooms,
it was a smile and kiss to separate rooms.
You say that's sad. No doubt it is, but I
in looking backwards now am not so sure.
Events have their denouements, and if they lie
as dead as dodos then a short downpour
of hurt or hope makes good the wait. Be
A little patient, therefore, nothing's certain.
The world's a pantomime, a comedy
in making. Doubtless if you find the curtain
ups and downs distracting, so do I, —
and will say so, roundly, by and by.