CELEBRATION (THE SHERLOCK HOLMES CENTENARY)

Posted by Admin on Tuesday, 7th April 2009, 00:00

The cover, faded blue, depicts
in black a prospect of the Strand –
the spine, in tarnished gilt, proclaims
its age, its five and eighty years
of much-read life.
Some pages, glossy, gilt-edged, hold
the six last chapters of a tale
by Conan Doyle (with pictures drawn
by Paget) of the phosphorescent Hound.
I take it from my study’s case
and, for the sake of auld lang syne,
I read again the well-remembered text.
At once the Dartmoor landscape fades,
and memories of Baker Street recur –
the bullet holes, the gasogene,
a clasp-knife’s impaled bills,
tobacco in a slipper’s toe,
and melancholy music from
the great man’s violin.
In retrospect my ‘inward eye’
reviews a gallimaufry from
that facile pen – the Dancing Men;
the orange pips; Napoleon’s bust;
the Christmas goose; Bohemia’s King;
Moran with Moriarty; and
the Warsaw prima donna-cum-
adventuress, Irene.
How often have I eavesdropped – heard
the logical deductions made
by Holmes astound his colleague’s mind.
Once, too, a schoolboy still,
I saw the Speckled Band descend
a bell-rope by the anchored bed –
a night of fascination and
of fear.
How well we grew to understand
the varied Holmesian moods –
his ice-cold isolation and amused
contempt for Scotland Yard’s
less able brains.
Much harder to condone, I found,
the weak cocaine solution used
to calm his restless nerves.
I’ve read how pedants analyse
the canon’s inconsistencies,
alert to all the defects in
John Watson’s crime case histories.
But I digress too far, too long –
reflection here must cease: the past
dissolves, the printed page obtrudes
to bring the story to its close,
with Holmes about to celebrate
(an opera and dinner at
Marcini’s much in mind)
his feat upon the Devon moor.
I, too, would celebrate that sleuth’s
Centenary – with words but not,
perforce, with food and vintage wine.

T. C. Hudson
© T. C. Hudson.

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