Picture G. H. Claypole: an appreciation

THE announcement of the death of G. H. Claypole in January after a sadly brief retirement will have been seen with regret by many Old Edwardians. Before leaving the school in 1958 he had been Senior English Master for seventeen years, during which time he founded the present department in the school and, as school records show, had in many ways-as a chairman of meetings, as a speaker and as a producer of drama-done much to further those activities nearest to his heart.

Gerry Claypole was, partly by his own refusal, never a man to be fitted into one category. His courteous and sometimes withdrawn manner led everyone to see in him at first a rare example of that very English good breeding typical of earlier days in this century. But for those who knew him more closely this picture would be altered by a sudden sparkle of unconventional and even puckish humour which brought him one's affection as well as one's respect. He liked to stir in his friends not the loud laugh but the quiet appreciative chuckle. His preference for the discriminating and observant was in all ways characteristic of him; parade and crudity, form and ceremony, wherever they happened, were always inimical to him.

As a scholar he never judged hastily or superficially. He said himself that he was a slow reader, but it was this very deliberateness which lent his judgements on literature their clarity and sureness. Literature was indeed his great love, and to see him at home surrounded by a lifetime's collection of books was to see him in his perfect setting. He could out readily be persuaded to voice his opinions, for he believed always that literature was to be experienced and enjoyed, not to be made the subject of theorising and argument. He had his own clearly thought and strongly held views on whatever he read and expected others to do likewise. This was reflected in his teaching, which was not remarkable for any system or method but for the great love and informed appreciation of literature which he knew how to communicate. Perhaps this did not appeal to everyone he encountered, but when a boy saw how much was being offered him, Claypole had his esteem for ever. No less, when he found a bent for and, to him equally important, a genuine interest in the craft of writing, he knew how to foster it.

Among his other talents he was himself a master of strong, simple and resourceful language. Even a small note from him would contain some entirely characteristic turn of phrase which gave one pleasure. And besides his gift for prose, he was a sensitive poet with an unexpected range and depth of feeling.

His interests ranged wide-over music, the countryside, county cricket, the arts, education. To the end of his life he kept his mind open and enquiring. In recent years, for example, he had come to enjoy modern American literature, and one had only to talk to him of such authors as Marianne Moore, who amused him, or Wallace Stevens, whose work he greatly admired, to realise that his thinking was not only youthful but even in advance of today's opinion. It is perhaps in this way, not as a traditional scholar with his roots in the Classics and a masterly knowledge of his own language, but as a man who could find the freshest mind contemporary with his own, that he would most like us to remember him.

R. B. C.

Two Poems
by G. H. Claypole


I cannot ease your pain
or suck the poison out:
what good
to warble sneer or shout
inept philosophies,
to wheeze
platonic platitude?
There is no written remedy for such pain.

Partner the sudden wind
dividing summer's heart
or learn
the plough’s progressive art
of sombre parallels:
the fells
in lovely unconcern
stand by you,-carven fell, thrall plough, and wind.

Essential solitude
trepans each errant will:
fierce hours
scar, sublimate, not kill
the patient self
that bides, like kitchen delf
subserving honours, passion, powers in etched inert essential fortitude.


(Written for Mr. Philip Baylis, sometime Music
Master at King Edward VII School).

Whistle and blur accost the ear
a crass continuum of noise
diminishing into entity
of silence, as the baton poised

Proclaims an hour's mania.
Afterthought can hardly swing
Back that superb encaenia
Of dandy drum and scathing strings.

A little tune berings the mind
The woodwind answers. .... half-way through,
Gone deaf, we're spinning verbal blinds,
like nitwits carried into Crewe.

Or, as the falling phrase returns,
'So utterly satisfactory' ,
The perfect notes induce a purr
-y furry pleasure. Or, contrary

Six simultaneous arguments
In agony of counterpoint
batter the bending ear, and paint
Proportion's insignificance.

Whichever style we chose-adroit
Vienna, constipated Finn,
Jew quartertones, Slavonic " Rite "-
Before us, like original sin

Dogging the innocence of sound,
Conductors waggle, dig and swoop.
Coda: concerts always pound
The spirit into turtle soup.

December 1945