R.I.P. Clive James (1939-2019) – Japanese Maple

More sad news arrived yesterday with the announcement of the death at the age of 80 of broadcaster, writer and critic Clive James. Clive James had been gravely ill for some time and had longer than many people to come to terms with his own mortality. In addition to the other things I mentioned above, he was an accomplished poet as he demonstrated in this reflection on his own end in the farewell poem Japanese Maple which he wrote about five years ago:

Your death, near now, is of an easy sort.
So slow a fading out brings no real pain.
Breath growing short
Is just uncomfortable. You feel the drain
Of energy, but thought and sight remain:

Enhanced, in fact. When did you ever see
So much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls
On that small tree
And saturates your brick back garden walls,
So many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?

Ever more lavish as the dusk descends
This glistening illuminates the air.
It never ends.
Whenever the rain comes it will be there,
Beyond my time, but now I take my share.

My daughter’s choice, the maple tree is new.
Come autumn and its leaves will turn to flame.
What I must do
Is live to see that. That will end the game
For me, though life continues all the same:

Filling the double doors to bathe my eyes,
A final flood of colors will live on
As my mind dies,
Burned by my vision of a world that shone
So brightly at the last, and then was gone.

And here is the man himself reading it. It’s very moving to hear him read this verse, his voice recognisable with its Australian accent and characteristic vocal mannerisms, but it is the voice of an invalid, of a dying man, thin and fading.

R.I.P. Clive James (1939-2019)

2 Responses to “R.I.P. Clive James (1939-2019) – Japanese Maple”

  1. The news of Clive James’ passing has been all over Australia since he originated from Sydney.

  2. Thank you for posting this affecting and beautiful poem, Peter.

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