Guest poem sent in by William Grey
(Poem #1807) Crossing the Frontier
Crossing the frontier they were stopped in time, Told, quite politely, they would have to wait: Passports in order, nothing to declare And surely holding hands was not a crime Until they saw how, ranged across the gate, All their most formidable friends were there. Wearing his conscience like a crucifix, Her father, rampant, nursed the Family Shame; And, armed with their old-fashioned dinner-gong, His aunt, who even when they both were six, Had just to glance towards a childish game To make them feel that they were doing wrong. And both their mothers, simply weeping floods, Her head-mistress, his boss, the parish priest, And the bank manager who cashed their cheques; The man who sold him his first rubber-goods; Dog Fido, from whose love-life, shameless beast, She first observed the basic facts of sex. They looked as though they had stood there for hours; For years -- perhaps for ever. In the trees Two furtive birds stopped courting and flew off; While in the grass beside the road the flowers Kept up their guilty traffic with the bees. Nobody stirred. Nobody risked a cough. Nobody spoke. The minutes ticked away; The dog scratched idly. Then, as parson bent And whispered to a guard who hurried in, The customs-house loudspeakers with a bray Of raucous and triumphant argument Broke out the wedding march from Lohengrin. He switched the engine off: "We must turn back." She heard his voice break, though he had to shout Against a din that made their senses reel, And felt his hand, so tense in hers, go slack. But suddenly she laughed and said: "Get out! Change seats! Be quick!" and slid behind the wheel. And drove the car straight at them with a harsh, Dry crunch that showered both with scraps and chips, Drove through them; barriers rising let them pass Drove through and on and on, with Dad's moustache Beside her twitching still round waxen lips And Mother's tears still streaming down the glass.
This is submitted as a juxtaposition and contrast with Seamus Heaney . Both Hope and Heaney use the frontier metaphor, but each uses it to explore very different themes. Heaney's concern is the struggle of the writer in what is experienced as a hostile environment. (I read Heaney's menacing antagonists as his readers and critics.) Hope is writing about pre-marital sex, an issue of not much concern today, but one which was more problematic for an earlier generation. (In particular before the advent of reliable oral contraceptives. The poem is dated 1963.) In Hope's case the menacing antagonists at the frontier are conventional morality and its upholders (parents, head-mistress, the parish priest). Interestingly in Hope's poem the decisive move to break the shackles of conventional morality is taken by the woman. (John Taber remarked earlier on Hope's characteristically positive treatment of women in his comment on . This is further support for Taber's claim.) The poem was published in . William Grey  Poem #1807, 'From the Frontier of Writing, Seamus Heaney  Poem #1568, 'His Coy Mistress to Mr Marvell', A.D. Hope  A.D. Hope, 'Collected Poems (1930-1965)'. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1966.