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Shackleton and Gilkes

January 2, 2012

I’m fond of coincidences, semi-coincidences and even semi-demi coincidences. This one involves people born in Leominster, people who were at Dulwich College and a Christchurch-based poet. Anyway, it’s all too long to tell, really, but I found the following in ‘Vibrant with words – The letters of Ursula Bethell’ (Ed. Peter Whitford).


It is to sit and want and not to have,

To sit and want with the whole heart and soul

To know that what you want and only that

Will make you happy and yet not to have.

To think of what you want and have it not;

To see it in your thoughts and not to have it,

To hear it always, whosoever speaks,

Whatever sounds there are, yet not to have.

To dream you have it, happy, then awake

And call to it and know you have it not,

And other things that you might have — and at times

Can wish for, and the other wish seems dead.

And when you have them, and should be content,

Back comes the other wish and speaks to you,

And you are bound to hear, and in your heart

All liking falls away for what you have,

And you are dead, alive, for what you have not,

And where you were before, there you are now,

Captive and miserable, and again you sit,

And want with all your heart and have it not.


Bethell comments that this is only true part of the time (in a letter dated Jan 3rd 1944).

 The authorship of Desiderium is uncertain but it may be attributable to Arthur Gilkes who retired as headmaster of Dulwich in 1914, and who was vicar of St Mary Magdalen’s in 1917 (d.1922).

(Shackleton went to Dulwich, too.)






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