Let It Be Forgotten

When remembering is too painful, we can pretend to forget.

“Let it be forgotten, as a flower is forgotten,
Forgotten as a fire that once was singing gold,
Let it be forgotten for ever and ever,
Time is a kind friend, he will make us old.

If anyone asks, say it was forgotten
Long and long ago,
As a flower, as a fire, as a hushed footfall
In a long forgotten snow.”

It’s all a matter of scale. The demolition of old school buildings bears no comparison with the devastation of Aleppo or Daraya, or for that matter Amatrice, and their wilful destruction, in the scale of things, is a dried leaf in the wind of time.

MGS(1)Those foolish fond people who would have known the classrooms, or the corner where timorous trysts took place, or the magnolia that shed its blossom like snow in Spring, will pass. And since memories are shaped by places and events, by the people who lived them, when they are no more, the world simply moves indifferently on.

The American poet Sara Teasdale (1884-1933) was popular in her day and known for her skilful use of traditional poetic forms at a time when many of her contemporaries were experimenting with free verse and unconventional language.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, into an old, established, and devout family, she was home-schooled until she was nine and in her 20s travelled frequently to Chicago, where she became part of the Poetry magazine circle. Among others, the magazine published early works by T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, and Robert Frost.

In 1918, Sara Teasdale won the first Columbia Poetry Prize for her collection Love Songs. The prize was later renamed the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. “Let It Be Forgotten” appeared in the collection Flame and Shadow (1924), apt metaphors for fleeting moments and lives.


Photos: Tearing down Midhurst Grammar School in Sussex, England, and effacing its memories. (Courtesy of Ian Wegg).



One comment on “Let It Be Forgotten

  1. tillyv says:

    Lovely. Thanks Philip. I like that poem very much though I never want to “pretend to forget” .. for me the memories are so positive and so vivid that I can conjure it all up whenever I want and somehow the place exists still whether the buildings are there or not. Not so sure how I will feel when more of the people are no more.. And once we are all gone then yes it will slowly fade to true non-existence. The last reunion was somehow quite magical – a combination of warm golden Autumnal weather and great good humour plus every aspect working like clockwork – and for so many of us to be back there together in those buildings added to the sense of continuation in collective memory . No sad ghosts in deteriorating buildings now .. just vivid sun-filled memories in our minds. At least while we have well-functioning minds!

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