Posted in General Interest, John Anstie, poem, Poems/Poetry, poetry

An Apology from Your Grandfather

(for Nathaniel)

This poem was written last November shortly after the birth of my third grandchild, a second grandson, and the first child of my son and his wife. I put it away for a while to ‘rest’, because I felt it wasn’t quite there; that it still needed something to make it work. Three months later, following several edits and adjustments, whilst it is perhaps less like poetry and more a narrative, (and was it Leonardo da Vinci himself who said that a work of art is never complete, only abandoned?) I have decided that I should let it go. I hope my grandson, when he’s old enough, all my grandchildren and onward generations, may find some use or ornament for it, to give them perspective on their own situations, whatever they may be, and to help guide them in their journeys through life …

The countryside was flush with gold
to celebrate your arrival; the season
was in suspense, as if to make
your first tiny footprint on the earth,
amidst the clamour of a thousand nativities,
as if a gift of God for this, your birth,
a special and harmonious event.

At the cusp, where Autumn meets with Winter,
a splash of golden hair defined you;
the gilding of a perfect crown,
was like the golden fleece,
that vaunted prize of Ancient Greece
in Jason’s time, when boys grew into men
before the age of their true making.

Your first year, centenary of a date
when Europe burned with anticipation
of conflict, a bloody affair, for which
no true atonement was ever offered,
for which we feel a great collective guilt
but which, we hope, will remain
a part of history. Not your future.

Your future shall be focused,
neither on the clock that ticks,
that divides time into segments of life;
that numbs the mind with endless drudge;
that defines your living to the end;
nor shall it confine your path
to the relentless quest for gain.

It is not control that you shall seek,
but access to a pantheistic knowledge,
enabling a different class of power,
the faculty for influence over those,
who misused the privilege they have,
that we, your forebears, allowed them.
For this I repentantly apologise.

If nature no longer holds its strength to live,
to refresh itself, to recover its flush and thrive,
it will be human beings, who prevailed
on its demise, for which there’s no excuse.
Beyond mere human frailty, there seems no will
to cease remorseless greed and just survive.
But the Earth owes us a big fat nothing!

So, if my undoubted compassion
does not have wings; if I do not transform
my rising anger into constructive deeds,
in such a way to help move hearts and minds
in concert, so to invest in change;
if thus, and I’m too frail or weak,
remorse will overcome my heart.

But have I yielded to our defeat?
No. I’ll neither submit to this old foe
nor will my pen cease in my hand,
whilst ever I have breath and mind
to speak out from the crowd.  I find
it sad to say that much is left to do,
which leaves an adverse legacy for you.

What do I expect of you, or you of you?
I know that I can ask, but cannot make;
I know you’re blessed with your own will,
but you will find that one thing will prevail:
the greatest force for life is family;
a force defying selfishness and greed,
which always gives us hope in time of need.

It shall be fuel that fills you, every day,
from your Stabat Mater, your Trojan Father,
whose care and energy will long endure,
imbuing you with superhuman strength,
for which there is no substitute;
that no amount of gold will ever buy.
Integrity and truth is born of this.

There is one thing I know will light your way,
’till time and tides are done and trees are gone.
This energy and fortitude, integrity
and strong desire, will all be borne
to you and, through you, to your children;
and so, through them, ancestral grace
will lead them to conquer the World!

It is the one enduring human quality
that is, more than mere emotion,
the omniscient and greatest power of all;
one word, one gift, which represents
life’s longing for itself, from me to you,
a kind of magic that will heal the World
… with pure, undying, unconditional Love.

© 2013 John Anstie


JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer. John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).



51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.


“Life is short and art long, the crisis fleeting, experience penniless and decision difficult” ~ Hippocrates. As a young man, John enjoyed being fit and sporting. It was then as much his recreational therapy as a cappella harmony singing, music, walking in the hills and writing is now. Playing Rugby Union for over twenty years, encouraged in the early days by a school that was run on the same lines as Gordonstoun, giving shape and discipline to a sometimes precarious early life. This fitness was enhanced by working part time jobs in farming, as a leather factory packer and security guard, but probably not helped, for a short time, by selling ice cream! His professional working life was spent as a Metallurgical Engineer, Marketing Manager, Export Sales Manager, Implementation Manager and Managing Director of his own company. Thirty five years spent, apparently in a creative desert, raising a family, pursuing a career and helping to pay the bills, probably enriched his experience, because his renaissance, on retirement, realised a hidden creative talent as a writer of prose and poetry. He also enjoys music, with a piano and a forty-nine year old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar. He sings bass in three a cappella harmony groups: as a founding member of a mixed voice chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices and a mixed barbershop quartet. He is also a member of one of the top barbershop choruses in the UK, Hallmark of Harmony (the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club), who, for the eighth time in 40 years, became UK Champions in 2019. He is also a would be (once upon a time or 'has been') photographer with drawers full of his own history, and an occasional, but lapsed 'film' maker. In his other life, he doubles as a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend and Family man. What he writes is sometimes autobiographical, often political, sometimes dark and frequently pins his colours to the mast of climate change and how humans are trashing the Earth. In 2013, he published an anthology of the poetry (including his own) of an international group of poets, who met on Twitter in 2011. He produced, edited and steered the product of this work, "Petrichor Rising", to publication by Aquillrelle. His sort of strapline sort of reads: “ iWrite iSing iDance iVolunteer ”

16 thoughts on “An Apology from Your Grandfather

  1. To write a poem for your newborn grandchild is such loving thing to do.
    It must also be so hard because reflecting on our world and the future world we -parents- feel pain and shame for that we haven’t been able to leave a better world to our children/grandchildren.
    That agony is clearly communicated in your poem without it getting too dark.
    I like your reference to the will of your grandchild, that will emerge and will make this world a better place according to his ideas.


    1. Thank you Paula. I am encouraged by the fact that you have interpreted this poem as it was intended, although it hasn’t turned out as I wanted it to be. Does any poet ever have complete control of their products …?


  2. What a stunning and beautiful gift : the gift of your soul that will survive you and be a treasure for your grandson to know how he was received into the world. I watched the BBC series on the First World War and pray that none of our grandchildren will ever be lost to such madness again. Your voice will speak across time, as I hope mine will to my grandchild.


    1. Thank you, Niamh. I don’t think this is my best poetry, more of a narrative cry for help; a seed to plant in the thoughts of a young man, or woman, which may just open their eyes to the need for human beings to divert themselves away from a culture of greed for wealth, a little sooner in their lives than I opened mine.


  3. Powerful poetry indeed. What jumps out at me are the first lines of the last stanza, and I quote,

    “It is the one enduring human quality
    that is, more than mere emotion,
    the omniscient and greatest power of all;
    one word, one gift, which represents
    life’s longing for itself, from me to you….”

    These lead in words do herald the multi-faceted power of ‘Love’ wonderfully. But a thought also crosses my mind whether empowering an emotion within us can in some ways make us conceited.
    After all the powerful actions of Love can on occasions be destructive in several other ways by its very non-inclusive nature. One reason why Love sometimes transforms and shows up negatively in our lives.



    1. Thank you for your meaningful and observant comment, Shakti. I find the value of putting my writings out here in blogosphere is that, regularly, I encounter those readers like you, who are also writers and capable of insights that I did not foresee. That love has the potential to be turned into a negative force is one such insight, which points me to the irrefutable fact that all powerful forces can be used for the bad as well as the good. It is surely our responsibility to make sure, as far as it is possibly within our own power to do so, that we assert the good.


  4. John, I don’t think real poets have complete control of their products. I don’t even want to have complete control over my mindful drawings, because control is done by the ego. I try to open myself up to the Muses, or I try to become one with the bird or butterfly or plant I’m drawing. I let it happen, as much as possible, although I keep an eye on the technical tasks. If my ego leaves me alone and doesn’t put ambition in my efforts, big change the final product makes me happy.
    As a poet, I understand one likes to keep an eye on sound, rhythm and rhyme, but isn’t is just like drawing or painting, in which inspiration can take over, and you just have to go with the flow?


  5. This is such a powerful legacy, John…even for those of us who weren’t able to leave our DNA behind. We, also, are responsible for what is handed on to future generations. As I understand it, in the American Indian tradition, the people are mindful of the previous seven generations and responsible for the seven generations to follow. They bear that responsibility with care, as we all should do. We feel so helpless at times to change the course of events. Like Mother Teresa said when asked how she could hope to make a difference, we do it one person at a time.

    As for the editing process…it is an on-going process, isn’t it? Most everything I put on my blog is raw, spur of the moment work. Then, when I have published something in a book, I try not to look at it again because I know I’ll either have regrets or want to change it yet again.


    1. Such a strong point, Victoria, about the Native Americans’ respect not just for their forefathers, but the generations to come, for whom we are now the forefathers (and mothers).

      As for the editing, I do so know what you mean, especially the poems that are published, in a book; done and dusted … when we have to let go and move on, or, just maybe, what is to stop us, as their author, from reconstituting them at some future time; that’s a fair point too. Although, I think for the most part, I believe we should let them stand and develop a life of their own and move on to new pastures and new poetry. Thank you so much for your comment. Much appreciated.


  6. What a beautiful poem. Sometimes they need to be set aside, to marinade a bit …

    But, I don’t think a work is ever complete. I think art isn’t a stagnant thing … it can always grow and change, as the artist grows and changes.

    Congratulations on your new grandson.


  7. John: Thank you so much for sharing this deeply moving poem written for your newborn grandchild!.
    I resonate deeply with the felt pain and shame that we leave to the precious ones we bring into the world. I now have 12 grandchildren– 9 of my own and 3 step-grandchildren. Feel a similar pain and remorse that I shared with one of my grandchildren when she visited me on a trip to California. I am not a poet but definitely feel similar feelings you shared here. . These words came out in the form of poem when she and her parents visited me in California the very day the Twin Towers came down!..

    “I Remember’

    I remember holding her in my arms.
    She pulled my ears and patted my face.
    I stood staring at the television
    as the planes crashed into the
    Twin Towers.

    She is six now.
    Chocolate covered
    Double chocolate
    Birthday cake
    Playfully being poked
    in my mouth.

    I get to hold
    her new Teddy bear that
    You can actually write on.
    Secret messages you can
    wash off later
    in the bath tub.

    She still loves
    to sit in my lap and
    play with my face.
    She is very curious about
    My whiskers.

    I savor the simple
    innocence and
    Wonder of the moment,
    Knowing how fragile
    this innocence. How
    Fleeting the joy..

    I know there is
    Power in me to help
    Shape her world.
    To make room for
    That innocence and

    In all that has “Never
    Yet been spoken,”
    I want her to somehow know
    There will always be a place for her
    in my world.



  8. Thanks so much, Rob, I’m pleased you can identify with this piece. As for your poem, the sentiment is very similar, but, in sight of what happened on 9/11, your message is powerful. I particularly like:

    “I know there is
    Power in me to help
    Shape her world.
    To make room for
    That innocence and


  9. I admire that you took the time and effort to write such a lasting plea to your grandson. I am not a parent and will likely never be, but I have the deepest respect for those who think and worry about future generations and the world which we are leaving them. There are so many alive today who simply don’t care about that legacy, so it’s heartening to read the feelings of someone who DOES care.

    My mother and I put together a “time capsule” (there is actually a society to register these, here in the States, and you can specify what year you want it opened and/or by whom) to be opened in the year 2060. It will only be a 50-year time span, but interesting to see what has changed. I put a poem into it which you reminded me of with your wonderful post here. Your piece really resonated with me. I’m happy that you are passing along the request to be a good steward. We need more like you…and hopefully, them. 🙂

    ~ A Message Across Time’s Span ~

    When all that “is” shall cease to be,
    When Time has formed present into past,
    When gone is the person known as “me”,
    Will mankind have found redemption, at last?

    In an effort to speak to future shepherds,
    With an unknown poet’s humble pen,
    I ask you to listen and heed these words,
    Lest history repeat itself, once again.

    We worked hard to kill this beautiful world;
    Polluted its oceans, stripped its rich lands.
    Our bottomless appetites were unfurled,
    Blood from all the plants and beasts stained our hands.

    All for voracious, rapacious greed.
    All we were given was never enough.
    Let this, then, serve as a thought-started seed,
    Man CAN survive without all of that “stuff”.

    The Earth is unique – our only home.
    Treat Her better than we did in our time.
    Be aware of your actions, wherever you roam,
    Let Love be the legacy of mankind.

    Be kind to each other, and realize,
    That we all fight some sort of battle. It’s true.
    Today is all we’re given, to idealize.
    Tomorrow’s not promised. Do what you can do.

    Make the world a better place because you’re in it.
    Choose to spend your hours in smiles.
    Don’t take for granted a single minute,
    Life can be beautiful, despite its trials.

    Remember that love can overcome,
    And know that peace can still prevail.
    Believe in yourself, and all you become,
    Keep Hope as your beacon,
    And you will not fail.

    ~ C.L.R. ~ © 2010


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