Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Silence at the Song's End

“What we were, we will become
As we give our heat to the desert sun”
These are the words which Nicholas Heiney used to describe death; in the summer of 2006 he committed suicide following a long but hidden battle with mental illness. The son of Libby Purves (one of my favourite authors and columnists and for whom I have had great respect since my early teens) Nicholas Heiney first came to my attention in Purves account of a family sailing round England in her book One Summer's Grace. Nicholas was 5 and his sister Rose 3. In reality, Nicholas was the same age as me. I was deeply saddened to read of his death last year.
Yesterday, Purves wrote a column in The Times entitled A Testament of Youth describing her son, his writing and the book that she and Nicholas' professor at his Oxford college have compiled from Nicholas' lifetime of writing. Called The Silence at the Song's End the book attempts to fulfill Nicholas' goal which was "to write something I could show to people". I have not yet had a chance to read this book but I have no doubt that Nicholas achieved this goal many times over.
This poem is one which has been featured in extracts from the book and is so moving it makes my heart hurt, for him, for the sea, for the Nicholas of One Summer's Grace, the family and with hope that wherever Nicholas is now he is able to be singing and sailing through eternity. (Read Frieda Hughes' response to this poem in Monday's Times here)
"The morning runs
on, a springtime secret
through the avenues
and avenues which lure
all sound away

I sing, as I was taught
inside myself.
I sing inside myself
when wild moments
slice some tender evening
like a breeze
that rattles gravel
and digs in the dirt

I sing, as I was told,
inside myself.
I sing inside myself
the one wild song, song that whirls
my words around
until a world unfurls

my ship’s new sail
I catch the dew
and set a course amongst the ocean curls

The silence at the song’s end
Before the next
Is the world"

Nicholas Heiney (1982-2006)

4 comments:

Princesa said...

love it

Cumbrian said...

Thanks for sharing your comments. I've just heard an interview with Libby Purves whilst painting a bedroom ceiling. I lost all sense of time and found the story she told, very moving. Must get a copy of the book as soon as possible.

Rachel said...

Beautiful

Rachel said...

And yes, let's meet up for the book/coffee thing - can do tomorrow or Sat/Sun