We have been very moved by this poem written all about our special Watergate, Gordon’s Wine Bar even gets a mention. Richard Darbourne, the author. has very kindly given us a copy to share.
Song of York Watergate
Walking with Pepys
They call me York but I would rather
Be Buckingham who was my father.
I thank my lord, my gracious giver,
Who set me by this royal river
With segmented pediment, columns palladian
From Serlio’s antique books arcadian,
Armorial shield and scallop shells within the frieze,
‘Fidei Coticula Crux’ – my noble family on my knees.
Strongly proportioned in rusticated bands
And lions couchant from master masons’ hands;
And such their skill, it gave him joy
To be the envy of Somerset and Savoy.
Now melted smooth by wind an dirt and rain
Whence comes another to carve them clear again?
Those learned in arts compare all my parts;
I was told by visiting Oxford clerks
They saw me in their botanic Danby Gate,
By French ambassadors, in Medici’s fountain Italianate.
Does history fall away in memory streams,
Moving in my stones, clear as vivid dreams:
The catholic danger from secret reports,
Intrigues and betrayal in the king’s courts
In mortal struggles for parliament and throne;
From the Banquet House a great public moan
To see on the scaffold his martyred head.
And how I remember through all the plague dead,
Air quiet with cries, and all the palaces fled.
Then York House was gone in confusion and pity,
Yet now I was part of the life of the city;
New names who lived in fashionable streets,
And the one among many was Mr Pepys
Who worked hard for the Navy early and late,
Daily touched my curves, leaned against my gate,
Called ‘Oars’ to take him on affairs of state.
Sometimes I waked and heard through my shells
The joyous ringing of all London’s bells,
Loud music on barges and crowds on my stairs
To view the great pageants of all the lord mayors;
Or cowered in fear of the flames in the sky,
Or cried for Nelson’s black flotilla passing by.
Come years of sewage, miasmic stink;
The need for embankment – yet still I think
Mr Bazalgette would move me, despite expense.
Instead I have brown gravel and a fence,
Protective wall and waving parlour palms,
Imprisoned in patient and land-locked calm.
O, how I miss descending steps, tidal banks,
My useful, vital, working elegance;
The chock and slap of water on boat,
Flat barges and wherries, sculls and wet rope.
I learned from water to the land
To know the streets that climb up to the Strand;
And was it more than yesterday I saw
Great crowds of recruits by Gordon’s Bar,
Cloth caps, straw boaters eager for war;
And lost boys leaving, cheering on trains
Taking them away to the wet Flanders plains.
According to schedule they sweep away
The itching debris gathered day by day:
A chip of wine glass, a fallen match
And just here on my corner a careless scratch,
My floor dusty with drifts of leaf litter.
And should I not be desolate and bitter
But for those who on the terrace meet
To talk and laugh and drink and, is it, tweet?
Last night two lovers sat and how I wished
My arches might them shelter offer as they kissed;
Or even assist as back drop to a play, or worse
Some south east London poet reading verse.
So leave me quietly now, I here remain;
And listening through the gardens in the rain,
Or still in mist I think I hear again
The watermen, working the river wide
Cry ‘Westward Ho for Whitehall’
And ‘Eastward Ho for Blackwall’
At the turning of the tide.