TO BRENDA WILLIAMS ON HER FIFTIETH BIRTHDAY by Barry Tebb
The years become you as Oxford becomes you,
As you became Oxford through the protest years;
From Magdalen’s grey gargoyles to its bridge in May,
From the cement buttresses of Wellington Square
To Balliol, Balliol in the rain.
The years become you as the Abbey Road becomes you,
As you became that road through silent years,
From the famous crossing to the stunted bridge
Caparisoned with carnivals of children,
Cohorts of coloured clowns and Father Christmases.
The years become you as the Clothworkers’ Hall in gold
Became you, and you became it through the protest years,
When the Brotherton’s Portland stone, its white stone
Of innocence was snow in the School of English garden,
‘A living sculpture’, a Grene Knicht awaiting spring.
The years become you, Oxford, Leeds and London,
As you became them through the years of poems,
Through passing, silent crowds, through the cherry blossom
You sat under, plucked and ploughed, ‘a dissenting voice’,
And Balliol, Balliol in the rain.