by Basil Chadwick
I gazed above the rotting trees,
Above the musty-smelling wood,
Above the calm and stagnant pools,
To where a silent turret stood.
I passed beneath a blackened arch,
Against the evening’s misty breath,
Where vines with glistening leaves had wrought
An iron wreath of silent death.
I found a goblet on the stones,
Grayish-green with age and mold,
And brushed away the mold and found
An ancient name upon the gold.
I let the goblet fall again,
And in the long metallic ring,
I heard the laughter of a court,
I heard the weeping of a king.
And when the air was still again,
I felt the dew, the gentle tears,
And passed beyond the wreathed arch
Into a universe of years.
by Basil Chadwick
Will make you lean,
Will make you fall.
by Michael R. Burch
editor of The HyperTexts
Basil Chadwick (1929-1948) was a high school classmate of two published poets, Richard Moore and
David Burnham. They attended the Loomis Chaffee boarding and day school in Windsor,
Connecticut during the World War II years. "Mnemosyne" seems to have been
written in 1946, or at least it appeared in the school’s literary journal,
The Loom, with that date. Itís a remarkable poem, in my opinion,
especially considering the poet's age.
I have a handwritten note by Richard Moore, forwarded to me by David Burnham,
in which he says that he chose not to attend a 50-year Loomis reunion in 1996
because his two closest friends were both "dead, so long
and thoroughly dead." One of those close friends was Basil Chadwick.
David Burnham remembers Chadwick as "gifted but restless." According to Richard Moore, "Mnemosyne" was written by Basil Chadwick at age
17. Here is his critique of the poem: "I’m going to use the enclosed poem of
Basil’s for the dedication of a book one of these days. (Another is already
dedicated to W. S. Knickerbocker, also dead*.) The poem is remarkable for a kid
of 17, especially stanzas 3 and 4, of which any poet would be proud. I
understand from a reliable informant that his dealings with Basil have given Mr.
B five extra centuries in purgatory."
* That must be why they are called dedications. [Richard Moore's note.]
Richard Moore dedicated his novel The Investigator to the memory of
Basil Chadwick. He dedicated The Rule That Liberates, a book of essays,
to the memory of William S. Knickerbocker with the inscription "who taught me