Scene From Far Off

Terry Flower recounts a trip to Boulge Park, following in the footsteps of W. G. Sebald

   It was a grey overcast afternoon in February. Conducive to sitting by flaming firesides and the recalling of warm memories. But we were out. Retracing Sebald’s footsteps across the arable flatlands of East Suffolk, three miles inland from estuarine Woodbridge and the site of Saxon burials. Sebald had been drawn here by stories of the FitzGerald’s. In particular Edward FitzGerald, famous for his translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Was it, I wondered, Sebald’s admiration of the poets craft and endeavour or FitzGerald’s own admission that all of his relatives were mad; further that he was insane as well, but at least was aware of the fact.[1]

   Our journey began at St. Andrews church Bredfield. A small, welcoming, narrow-isled church, with a generous and elaborately carved hammer beam roof that seemed slightly out of kilter with such a modest place of worship. A risk assessment would have found the structure capable of bearing many times the load required of it here. A flying advertisement to a wealthy patron. From St. Andrews we set off, slip-sliding across a muddy harrowed field towards the site of Boulge Hall. It was into this manor house that the Fitzgeralds moved in 1825, having previously occupied a neighbouring manor house, Bredfield House, where Edward FitzGerald was born in 1809. Nothing much remains of either great house today. The former having been hit by a flying V2 rocket in the last war, the latter decayed, and over the years pilfered for building materials. Arriving at Boulge we entered the small family church. Full of marshalled memorials to the FitzGeralds. The interior was untidy and tight. Feeling the pinch of holding too many histories. Outside the family mausoleum brooded; gothic, moody. Flint and stone in blacks and greys. Beside, but set apart, a long granite tombstone of polished pink. This is the grave of Edward FitzGerald. At its head a tender homage to the poet; a spindling rose. Seeded from a Persian flower that casts it scent over the grave of Omar Khyyam. Only at this point did I feel the bud of the day turn to leaf.

Yes I have entered your olden haunts at last; through the years, through the dead scenes I have tracked you.[2]

   Moving out of shade and into the light we set off on the last leg of our field-tripping journey towards the site of Bredfield House. As we crossed through scrub dotted with oaks, we spotted a roosting barn owl. It flew off to patrol a distant spinney. Up and down it went at the edge of the far leafless-grey-wood, trying to flush out small birds with the silent movement of its white wings. With perfect timing it echoed the group, trying to tease into the open-air thoughts from the day’s dense thicket of experience.

Photo by Terry Flower

The moving finger writes; and having writ, moves on.[3]

[1] Caulfield, Catherine. The emperor of the United States and other magnificent British eccentrics. London: Routledge. 1981. 86.

[2] Hardy, Thomas. After the journey. From Woman much missed. London: Penguin Classics, 2015. 23

[3] Khayyam, Omar. Rubaiyat. Trans. Edward FitzGerald. New York: Random House. 1947. 35.

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