The Land of Counterpane

The view up the valley to the hills from our Isle of Man house as the sun sets on the west side of the island

The view up the valley to the hills from our Isle of Man house as the sun sets on the west side of the island


The Land of Counterpane

Familiarity with the Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses may help to understand how “The Land of Counterpane” can be subconsciously adapted to some form of contemporary thought.  What a child dreams of, imagines or filters from the vast information overload of modern life is, no doubt, the subject of everything from Ph.D. studies to both amateur and more professional behavioural studies, but for all who are in contact with those in their early years there is a fascination as to what they take in and how they process it.  The CBBC TV channels that are relevant to young children and their parents and grandparents, but pass the rest of society by, dig into this particularly interesting mine of imagination.  My introduction to In the Night Garden (which runs every evening seven days a week) involved the acceptance of what is sitting on this borderland of what to everyday human experience is complete nonsense, yet is constantly related to it.

Imaginatively delving into this area brings me back to The Land of Counterpane and other pieces reflecting on it, including a prose poem by Lee Harwood under the same title from 1985 (see The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem p.194).  The ‘take’ of this author is how an adult can hold onto the magic of the moment when a child shares his or her dream with us, even subconsciously as they sleep.  His conclusion is that we cannot - any more the we can hold the colour of a sunset - but it also demonstrates the great truth that we can never truly understand the reality of eternity until we recognise that what is real in this life must also be perishable - a thought that I have received from more than one source, but recently in John F. Deane’s poem Three Rivers:

“….. the mystery of what stays

forever is the mystery of the glory of perishable things.” (The Instruments of Art p. 20)

John Mann