My Dear Virginia—It’s been 30 years
Since Volume One, The Diary, came out.
Through every volume, courage trumped your fears,
Yet those last notes you wrote seemed more about
The war to me—that victory was in doubt.
The press went wild with worry and conjecture
The day you vanished, missing Maynard’s lecture.
Impertinent, perhaps you’ll say, and now
The point is moot as well, some sixty-two
Years late. Instead then, let me tell you how
I lived your Letters in a rendezvous
As intimate as pen and ink can brew.
Six volumes? Not enough. I had to learn
Ordeals give birth to wit, and still return.
And if I write to you to say how much
Your legacy is a triumph over odds,
I hope you won’t assume I need a crutch,
Or seek your intercession with the gods—
Favors meant for shy Scheherazades.
Writing’s not a pastime for the weak,
And we have seen the havoc love can wreak.
I’ll bring you up to date—perhaps you know
The Nazis fell in 1945.
It’s just as well you missed the overthrow.
London stood the Blitz, and would revive;
The Hogarth pace kept Leonard Woolf alive.
The 50s mixed conformity and farce;
The 60s set the whole world on its arse.
Vita turned hermetic when you died;
Olivia continued bringing butter.
Angelica sought solace, Bunny’s bride;
Vanessa’s paint gave way to sulk and putter.
Your book sales saw a spike, and then a sputter,
And though he felt you needed no acquittal,
Duncan Grant was moody, even brittle.
Lydia lamented in a dance
(But this you would have guessed—I know you did),
Saxon smoked and entertained a trance;
Maynard did his damnedest in a bid
To keep a kind of economic lid
On all the West’s financial inconsistence.
The Existentialists upheld existence.
The world’s become an even stranger place,
Where suicidal bombings now occur
As if by rote, and demonstrators mace
Police-force horses in a cri de coeur.
Some things don’t change: agents provocateurs,
The color of the water on the Ouse,
The hard way Leonard waited for the news.
But I shall visit Monk’s House by the sea,
Kept for your own pilgrims and for aye,
And climb the downs beyond Virginia’s tree
And look out for the fin beneath the sky,
And sense your habitation there, and cry,
Nail your flag to the mast in a raging gale—
Your work is life, but oh, the shark was frail.