Sonnet by Gamel Woolsey



When I am dead and laid at last to rest,
Let them not bury me in holy ground -
To lie the shipwrecked sailor cast ashore -
But give the corpse to fire, to flood, to air,
The elements that may the flesh transform
To soar with birds, to float where fishes are,
To rise in smoke, shine in a leaping flame -
To be in freedom lost in nothingness,
Not garnered in the grave, hoarded by death.
What is remembrance that we crave for it?
Let me be nothing then, not face nor name;
As on the seagull wings where bright seas pour,
As air that quickens at the opened door:
When I am dead, let me be nothing more.


From The Collected Poems of Gamel Woolsey, Warren House Press, 1984.
© Kenneth Hopkins and the Estate of Gamel Woolsey


Gamel Woolsey and her husband Gerald Brenan spent many summers at Welcombe and her reference in this poem to ‘the shipwrecked sailor cast ashore’ is undoubtedly based on her knowledge of Hawker. Like Ronald Duncan, Woolsey and Brenan first came to Welcombe in 1937, and Duncan himself wrote of how ‘Various inhabitants here with one foot in the grave remember and tell me of the Rev. Stephen Hawker’ (sic). (Journal of a Husbandman, p.85)

Gamel Woolsey was born in South Carolina in 1895 and moved to New York in her early twenties. After a brief first marriage she became involved in an intense relationship with Llewelyn Powys and his wife, Alyse Gregory, and when the couple returned to England she came to live near them in Dorset. By 1930 she was looking to escape what had become a painful situation for all concerned and a chance meeting with Brenan gave her the opportunity she needed. The couple remained together until Woolsey’s death in Málaga, Spain in 1968.

LINKS

- Literary Places: Welcombe, West Mill and the Marsland Valley

- Sundial Press: introduction to Patterns on the Sand by Barbara Ozieblo

- Lost Magazine: article by Emma Garman

PUBLISHED WORKS

‘Faith at Forty Second Street’, a poem. Published in the Literary Review Supplement of the New York Evening Post, June 3, 1922.
Middle Earth, a collection of 36 poems. First edition, London: Grant Richards, 1931, with a linocut frontispiece by Frank Pollard. First U.S. edition, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1932. Republished by Kenneth Hopkins’ Warren House Press, 1979.
Death’s Other Kingdom, a first-hand record of the Spanish civil war. London: Longmans Green & Co., 1939. Republished by Virago Press, 1988, and as Málaga Burning with an introduction by Zalen Grant by Pythia Press, 1998. Republished by Eland Publishing Ltd., 2004.
Spanish Fairy Stories. London: Transatlantic Arts, 1944. Illustrated by Mario Armengol.
The Spendthrifts (La de Bringas by Benito Perez Galdos). Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1951. Illustrated by Charles Mozley.
‘The Star of Double Darkness’, a short story. Published in The Saturday Evening Post, June 18, 1955.
Twenty Eight Sonnets. Warren House Press, 1977.
The Last Leaf Falls. Warren House Press, 1978.
The Search For Demeter. Warren House Press, 1980.
The Weight of Human Hours. Warren House Press, 1980.
Letters to Llewelyn Powys, 1930-1939. Warren House Press, 1983.
Collected Poems. Warren House Press, 1984.
One Way of Love, a novel. Accepted for publication by Gollancz in 1930 but withdrawn at the last minute because of concerns regarding its sexually explicit content. Eventually published by Virago Press, 1987.
Patterns in the Sand, a novel. Still unpublished – see Sundial Press website.

FURTHER READING

Gerald Brenan, Personal Record: 1920 – 1972. Knopf, 1975.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy, Gerald Brenan: The Interior Castle. Sinclair-Stevenson, 1994.