A Tribute to Freya Stark

A Tribute to Freya Stark (1893-1993)

O, English Woman

Indominable Will

Who launched yourself against the world

And not just any part of the world,

But of Asia, the environs of Alexander the Great,

Of Iraq and Iran, the Muslim world,

Of Turkey and unpassable passes,

Of mountains white with snow in April,

Of rivers that sliced through plains

Like liquid knives,

Sleeping on the ground,

Drinking camel milk

And eating bread with weevils and worse.

You brought forth the battles

Of Alexander and Darius,

The Kings of Byzantine,

Who searched for the waters of the Divine

White as milk, sweet as honey

And with a draft, immortal life begotten.

Alexander took a fork in the path and

Died without this elixir at only 32.

You brought to life history

That part of history that I read

Before through half-closed eyes,

Seeing nothing much and forgetting


But through the accident of DNA, mine

You made this history bleed and soar

For it was mine in the earliest waters

Where I found my river of life formed

In ancient Greece, to flow through Turkey

Into Iran and then further on.

What a surprise to find this, where I thought

I was nothing of this history or geography!

But it answers to the violence, the quickening of blood,

The blood of warriors, not kings, but horsemen

With spears and arrows clinging naturally to wild horses.

To find out at this late stage of life

That my blood is mingled with that of the Persians

Perhaps speaks to the poetry in my mind

That boils up and explodes out of my brain.

Look back far enough

And we find the fundamental roots of life.

We are not just housewives, staid in our parlors

But swordsmen and poets and horsewomen clinging

Tightly with a bow and arrow drawn in our hands

And the target is the future

And we are those who have made it.

All reactions:

1Jane Kohut-Bartels

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