When I say I love Lancelot Brown, I don’t mean it in the sense of ‘I deeply admire his work.’ No, I mean it in the same sense the teenage me wanted to faint every time I saw a photograph of Richard Gere.
Yep, that bad.
But perhaps it explains why I almost couldn’t cross the bridge from the car park to Compton Verney when I arrived there for my writing residency with Viccy Adams. This wasn’t just a bridge, it was THE bridge Capability Brown built. Over the lake he designed, and there around me – OH GOD ALL AROUND ME – was his vision. And for the next two days, I was going to be ‘living’ in the house as if he’d designed the landscape all for me. Not just a quick visit, but I’d be able to look out of windows at different times of the day, see it in different lights, walk in it, get cuddled by it…
But it was true. I’ve seen many Brown landscapes over the time, but I’m not sure I’d really got it in the way I did at Compton Verney. There were huge bits of landscaping – a derelict village cleared for this view…
The chapel (marked by the obelisk)…
…moved to behind the house so there was an unobstructed view of the lake from the windows…
Some relics were moved the church…
… others remained…
Beautiful, personable, characterful trees….
The bridges marking exactly the right points so the water seemed to go on forever…
The views in and out of the house…
So, in honour of being possibly his most fansydosy* fan, here’s a love poem to him… and first a quick video… it’s only a few minutes AND IT CONTAINS… no, I don’t want to spoil the surprise…
(*I don’t care if this is a word or not, it should be.)
Fresh Green Silence
Maybe like this: sunburnt hands
brown as earth or the bark of a tree,
stroking the neck of his horse,
sweat and mud flicking high
in air, as even then, cantering
into the courtyard, his mind as open
as the servants’ kitchen, where ale spills
over the oak table while he arranges
pots and pans as forests, skims off foam
from his tankard for a lake,
until later, upstairs, he unrolls
vellum plans, takes silky ladies
to the window. You must always,
he urges, embrace even disorder
with necessary order. Arms stretched
out in the offer of so many possibilities:
here the sound of rushing water
under a spinx lined bridge,
there there there, spaces between trees,
full stops in a constant conversation.
I will give you, he whispers to her hand,
fresh green silence, and it’s this
she holds on to, the rush of air
as he rides away and the very land
she walks on is transformed forever.