Perhaps good compost

Yesterday I drove up to Cumberland, one of the small towns huddled around Providence along the Blackstone River.  I wanted to see William Blackstone Memorial Park, a little brick diamond on the corner of Broad & Blackstone Sts., just across the way from the giant parking lot of the defunct Ann & Hope shopping center.

The memorial consisted of an old stone monument, erected by Blackstone's descendants; a brick patio, with a couple of tablets of historical information, and... a small apple tree, weighted down with green apples!

I tried one : it was tart but good.

Blackstone was an early New England orchardist, credited with cultivating the first apple variety in the region - the Yellow Sweeting (now also known as the Rhode Island Greening).

The encounter with Bluejay (see previous posts) filtered in a whole new tone to Stubborn Grew.  Something more serious, a little ominous maybe.  The atmospheric pressure seemed to build until Henry had to step back and feint to the left, back into colonial origins.

Bluejay will return again, at the end of this chapter : but for now the hobbling little Rhody-bard's squawking bends back for some kind of soma-drink at the sources of imagination.  We have people in the poem now, not just literary symbols ("Orpheus", "Hamlet").  & this was Bluejay's doing.  The next phase introduces three local avatars of poetry & the imagination : Blackstone, George Berkeley (the idealist philosopher who lived in Newport for a few years), and John LaFarge, a 19th-century artist who did a lot of painting in the "Paradise" neighborhood of Newport.

Blackstone is a very curious figure.  A pivotal character in Conrad Aiken's amazing long history-poem, The Kid.  Orchardist, Anglican reverend, scholar, exile.  Almost a sort of Moses figure.  For a while he owned the largest library in New England (at his "Study Hill").  It was burned to the ground days after he died.  Then his body (like Moses') disappeared - no one knows where he lies.

So we jump back into history & crypt & scripture.


Rain and wind, wind and the rain.  Lent. 
Drifting for days, cloudy, over New England. 
El Nino.  In my beginning is my end.
And Blackstone rode into exile without incident

out of Boston, into Rhode Island, astride a white bull. 
Anglican recluse.  Study Hill, in Cumberland.
His Study Hall was Alexandrian –
a nest of books; his morning orchard full

of Yellow Sweetings.  It was Eden before Eden, 
Ithaca before the Greek was translated, hidden Rome 
at the end of roaming, Ethiopian Negus kingdom 
nestled high beyond flood-tide. . . heaven

for meditation.  3 Bibles, 10s; 6 English books
in folios, L2. 3 Latin books, in folio, 15s;
3 do., large quarto, L2; 15 small quarto, L117s 
16d; 14 small do., 14s; 30 large octavo. . . £4. . .5s. . .

Inventory, May 28th (day of his burial).  Body
was hardly cold in the ground.  Band of King Philip's. 
Burned Study Hall and all its books.  The earth itself 
was all that remained. A few smoldering ashes. . . two

rough quartz grave markers.  Painfully regret the 
destruction. . . those "paper books".  (Probably ms.) 
Left England to get from under power of lord bishops, 
but in America I am fallen under lord brethren.

I looked to have dwelt with my orchards and my books, 
my young fawn and bull, in undisturbed solitude. 
Was there not room enough for all of ye?
Could ye not leave the hermit in his corner?

Study Hill became Ann & Hope (first American 
shopping center).  Blackstone went missing – bones
in a wooden box sealed in lead. . . heavy lead foil. 
Its corners were soldered. . . 12x12x6 inches in

size.  Ash, bones, clay – time past perhaps good compost.

Yellow Sweeting laden with apples at the Wm. Blackstone Memorial

Ann & Hope parking lot, where WB's bones were lost

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