Thou pleasant island

It was one of those strange things, which maybe can only happen when you’re young; a friend and I, temporarily homeless and staying with someone else met up with one of my pals from my school days, and as it was a miserable cool, grey and rainy summer day we had gone to the pub for a drink and for something to do. It was the summer holidays but the almost wintry weather meant we didn’t feel inclined to do anything very much. We had a newspaper and were looking through when our friend spotted an advert from Ventura Travel in Sheffield for villa holidays in Corfu.

Our friend was the sort of person who didn’t just sit and think how nice it would be to go, she organised us to ring up, book tickets, and go… the next day! Good grief! This was way before the internet so we hastily packed our bags, went over to Sheffield to pick up our tickets (my friend must have had a car… or maybe I did… or maybe we hired one…) Drove to Cambridge and stayed the night with cousins and then flew off to Corfu the very next day.

Because it was so cheap we had imagined our villa was going to be some run down shack… but no, it was a wonderful new white two bedroom villa about ten minutes from the beach! We had a fabulous holiday, all the better for being such a surprise!

Here is a poem by Richard Monckton Milnes…


Thou pleasant Island, whose rich garden–shores
Have had a long–lived fame of loveliness,
Recorded in the historic song, that framed
The unknown Poet of an unknown time,
Illustrating his native Ithaca,
And all her bright society of isles,–
Most pleasant land! To us, who journeying come
From the far west, and fall upon thy charms,
Our earliest welcome to Ionian seas,
Thou art a wonder and a deep delight,
Thy usual habitants can never know.
Thou art a portal, whence the Orient,
The long–desired, long–dreamt–of, Orient,
Opens upon us, with its stranger forms,
Outlines immense and gleaming distances,
And all the circumstance of faery–land.
Not only with a present happiness,
But taking from anticipated joys
An added sense of actual bliss, we stand
Upon thy cliffs, or tread the slopes that leave
No interval of shingle, rock, or sand,
Between their verdure and the Ocean’s brow,–
Whose olive–groves (unlike the darkling growth,
That earns on western shores the traveller’s scorn)
Can wear the grey that on their foliage lies,
As but the natural hoar of lengthened days,–
Making, with their thick–bossed and fissured trunks,
Bases far–spread and branches serpentine,
Sylvan cathedrals, such as in old times
Gave the first life to Gothic art, and led
Imagination so sublime a way.

Then forth advancing, to our novice eyes
How beautiful appears the concourse clad
In that which, of all garbs, may best befit
The grace and dignity of manly form:
The bright–red open vest, falling upon
The white thick–folded kirtle, and low cap
Above the high–shorn brow. Nor less than these,
With earnest joy, and not injurious pride,
We recognise of Britain and her force
The wonted ensigns and far–known array;
And feel how now the everlasting Sea,
Leaving his old and once imperious Spouse,
To faint, in all the beauty of her tears,
On the dank footsteps of a mouldering throne,
Has taken to himself another mate,
Whom his uxorious passion has endowed,
Not only with her antique properties,
But with all other gifts and privilege,
Within the circle of his regal hand.

Now forward,–forward on a beaming path,
But be each step as fair as hope has feigned it,
For me, the memory of the little while,
That here I rested happily, within
The close–drawn pale of English sympathies,
Will bear the fruit of many an after–thought,
Bright in the dubious track of after–years.

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