Where’er You Walk

Patricia Beer

Jove and Semele were not well-matched.
She was spoiled and silly. He was clever.
The things she really wanted from him were
A literal god-child, and to live for ever.

Folie de grandeur, Congreve called it. She
Sang about endless pleasure, endless love
Only to vex the ones she left on earth.
She met with touching tenderness from Jove

Who charged the weather that where’er she walked
It should turn mild and that when she sat down
The trees should never moult their shade; the fields
Should raise up flowers for her in the sun.

He stroked her as he said it, and his voice
Was low with love. The bliss he guaranteed
Could have come true if only for a while,
Could, he thought, give her all that she would need.

Something else happened. She had asked for it.
Jove in his thorough self made love to her.
His lightning burned her flesh, ousted her breath.
She lay as ashes with the Thunderer.

One legend says she went to hell for this.
Another saves her inexplicably.
She is last seen with what she wanted most:
A baby god and immortality.

Patricia Beer died on 15 August. She sent ‘Where’er You Walk’ to the ‘LRB’ on 10 July with a letter in which she said: ‘I find I am pleased with it, even proud of it, and this naturally makes me suspect that it is doggerel. The problem, I’m sure, is one that attacks many, perhaps most, poets of my age.’ She was 79. ‘I started writing poetry at the age of eight and indeed practically filled the school magazine with it and of course it was all rhyme and traditional scansion. When, after a long gap, much of it spent abroad, I started writing as an adult back in England, Modernism had thoroughly arrived and the techniques of my youth were being sneered at and I fell in with the mood as best I could. Nowadays I think matters in the world of poetry may be changing and I long to get back to where I began. I should like to spend the rest of my working life writing as I have in this poem but it may be a delusion of approaching old age; I just don’t know.’