Longthwaite Bridge

From a sequence of poems about Constable in Borrowdale

Longthwaite Bridge

Did he stop what he was doing
that afternoon to greet the tall woman
as she paused on Longthwaite Bridge?
Did she look over his shoulder
to see the swift sketch he’d made of her
in her blue skirt, as she stood still as the fell?

In three weeks this was his one meeting,
or so it seems, with any stranger.
Without her we’d have only the arch
of the bridge, echoed in the curve
of the brown hill, and the pink wash,
and in the beck that flickering shadow.

She’s more than staffage, more than a shape
to bring the scene into focus: a boulder
could have easily done that trick.
There’s something reverential
in the brush-strokes that depict
her upright form, her bowed and hidden face.

Is she the muse of memory?
How mysterious this encounter is, among
the hills with an unknown woman in blue.
How statuesque he made her seem
under the fine autumn sky; and how much
we’d give to have her point of view.