Friday, 9 December 2016

In Memoriam: Barrington Milson, d. 2004

Barrington Milson was one of the most extraordinary people I have ever met. A high flying executive in international business until a complete breakdown or spiritual experience, the reader must decide, reduced him to footloose penury, he had settled and found a certain calm in Penzance, Britain's most westerly town. He had wonderful 'presence' and a mind well-stocked in theology, philosophy and spirituality, and the times we spent together discussing ideas and the world are, for me, an indelible memory. In the space of four quick years Alzheimer's destroyed him. I miss him to this day.
   This elegy is written in my simplified version of classical elegiac metre, i.e. alternating dactylic hexameters with dactylic pentameters. The metre of Longfellow's 'Evangeline' is similar - although Longfellow, following common practice, replaced the final dactyl with a spondee, whereas I have kept the final dactyl.
   Note: Wherry Town is a seafront area of Penzance; Penwith is the wider administrative area which includes Penzance. 


Years ago, bunkered in granite, those misted and rain-shallied alleys of
   Wind-hit Penzance, giving shelter to fishermen’s families,
Mingled with self-doubting artists and awkward Joannas from whom the world
   Turned away, Barrington – God-sunk announcer of spiritual                          
Terrors – we met, and with wine and the mind’s busy raids on the Absolute
   Firmly were pals until death showed its teeth and so snatched you off.
Friend, you knew well your advantage in looks, pliant charm and authority –
   Spirited ladies were limply susceptible! Worldliness
Gifted you, youth no objection, with status and money, executive
   Power which arched over continents – plane travel, meetings to
Settle expenditure, marketing targets and fire up the laggardly.
   God intervened – call it Fate if you wish – throwing down from that
Height careless pride; tumbling soul to a valley of horrors where satyrs and
   Beelzebub rummaged in guts, twisting spirit so only a
Vague simulacrum survived, to be thrust back at life barely able to
   Manage as visions and voices enthralled you with secrets – those
Riddles from God which, unwrapped like a codex, but hinted at more and yet
   More shrouded knowledge until weary-eyed, become shriven of
Flesh, you erupted in anguished revolt, spinning hard from, yet seeking out,
   God’s unresponding, sustaining, emotionless majesty –
Merciful, merciless, seemingly one and the same. And so, broils upon
   Broils overwhelmed you – the insight that only by breasting the
Absolute’s merciless absence and hopelessly clutching it, fevered and
   Retching in pain, might one flush out the merciful Presence which
Maybe is but to collapse, bone and skin, on Its breast and to sink without
   Stain into Being’s eternity. Barrington, who can cross
Chasms like that? All position, respect and your place at the tables of
   Influence, home and possessions, were lost, and good-manneredly –
Suavely, perhaps, for unable by code to be vulgar – you took to the
   Lanes and the mudways of England and Wales, even sleeping in
Snow-drifts in fields, and avoiding a soaking by dodging in barns, ever
   Loath to see people, so stirring those torments you bore in your
Heart, until foot-hurt and blighted in brain, seeking solace in salty-aired
   Cornwall’s far west, you dropped anchor in old Penzance town, soothed by
Scurrying winds and the howling insurgency gulls frankly flung at their
   Maker – such Nietzschean graspers of life! In your bedsit I
Found you engaged in deciphering messages hushed in the Gospels by
   Formulae shown you in dreams though each fragment of insight but
Pointed to further conundrums. Blind writings and sortilege offered no
   Breakthrough and day after day you entreated your neatly kept 
Musings to flare to transparency, showing at last the lost reason why
   God had destroyed you, abandoned to ridicule, penniless.