“When sometimes I stroll in silence, with you
Through great floral meadows of open country
I listen to your chatter, and give thanks to the gods
For the honest friendship, which made you my companion
But in the heavy fragrance of intoxicating night
I search on your lip for a madder caress
I tear secrets from your yielding flesh
Giving thanks to the fate which made you my mistress.”
~~ Vita Sackville-West ~~
Vita Sackville West had many lovers who would flit like fragile fireflies around her restless soul throughout a long life; the most famous, and certainly the most well known was Virginia Woolf. But the only ones which truly delivered to her on a daily basis, food and deep spiritual nourishment, was her love of her two homes.
When she was disinherited of her life`s blood of Knole, after 36 years of unadulterated adulation, she left the family premises in a huff looking for new quarters. Knole, which was said to contain a room for every day of the year, was lost to an uncle because Vita`s parents had not produced a son, a loss which has been described as the loss of her life.
“When Vita Sackville-West was shown Sissinghurst, she fell `flat in love with it`. Like an offended lover, she turned her back on Knole for 30 years. The bitterness of her disinheritance reveals itself in her choice of phrase — it was the result of a `technical fault`: she was a woman.”
~~ U.A. Fanthorpe ~~
The marriage of diplomat Sir Harold Nicolson and Vita was an emotionally tangled and impenetrable web, with both having many same sex affairs during their long marriage from 1913 until Vita`s death in 1962. Their frank and open relationship was the epitome of the sexual ethos of the fashionable Bloomsbury Group of artists and writers with whom their lives overlapped.
The above poem, which fell out of the pages of an old book for which it was apparently being used as a bookmark, was a poem written some 5 years after her marriage to one of her many on-off lovers, Violet Trefusis, daughter of Alice Keppel, the lover of King Edward VII.
To say that Vita was an emotionally complicated individual goes without saying, or does it? We all need comfort and the warmth of love, and Vita perhaps, sated her carnal desires upon her many lovers, while the deep love she had for her two homes and their gardens, which cultivated, watered, and fed her inner most soul, a paradise, a haven to escape life for the moments she spent within their embrace, gave her an unconditional, spiritual love which she could find from no one, or nowhere else.
Leaving Knole was a huge wrench, but her response perhaps tells us more about her than the lengthiest psychological essay……….
“I suppose my love for Knole has gone deeper than anything else in my life.”