Maya Saparova paid my wife Margaret and me a kindly tribute in comparing us to two swans. Alas, since my wife died, the male swan is grounded and flies no more.
Margaret was hoping to fly with me to Ashkhabad in 1994. She had then developed a slight heart problem, an enlarged left ventricle. She thought the heat would be harmful for her, and her doctor advised her against the journey. Both she and I regretted it.
But later she participated eagerly in arranging my English version of Makhtumkuli's poems for publication, and was always eager for news from Central Asia and the land of Makhtumkuli.
The heart problem masked something more serious. It was not until July of 1997 that she was found to be suffering from cancer of the pancreas. She bore the news as bravely as could be - more bravely than I, certainly - but died within four months.
My beautiful and elegant wife, being of a calm clear spirit, was always equable of temper. Her smile was irresistible. She radiated courage and love upon all our family, upon Clive and Wendy and Tim and Charlotte, our four children, and most especially upon me. I will be forever grateful to Margaret, most blessed of women, for the radiance she shed on my life.
It's notorious how difficult is marriage to an author. Yet Margaret managed to produce three books of her own. A celebratory book called "A is for Brain", a 360-page bibliography-plus of my work, and her delightful Boars Hill anthology, a collection of histories from where we used to live. All done - everything done - even her dying - without fuss or unnecessary display.
Margaret was my second wife. We lived in harmony. I had two children by my first marriage, Clive and Wendy, whom I greatly loved. Margaret, without attempting to usurp a mother's role, took them under her wing and loved them too. I suppose she must have thought initially that if she could put up with me she could put up with them. But she did love them 'like her own', as the saying is, and they loved her. And when our own joint children were born, all four children became one family - I say it with awe and astonishment - and gratitude to them all - without jealousy or quarrels. So it has remained. Charlotte was born punctually on the spring morning of Wcndys tenth birthday. It was just one of Margaret's miracles...
Our family is a wonderful testimony to affection, forbearance, and love. She who engendered these bonds has now left us, taken by the cancer in her sixty-fourth year. A Czech friend only last year referred to Margaret as 'eternally youthful'. So we shall always remember her.
At Margaret's funeral, both my brave daughters spoke. So did 1, and read a short piece from Walter Savage Landor's "Imaginary Conversations" which has haunted me since I came across it, over half a Century ago. It's a pagan lamentation about the frailty of the human condition.
Laodameia died; Helen died; Leda, the beloved of Jupiter, went before. It is better to lie in the earth betimes, than to sit up late; better, than to cling pertinaciously to what we feel crumbling under us, and to protract an inevitable fall.
There are no fields of amaranth on this
side of the grave; there are no voices, O Rhodope, that are not
soon mute, however tuneful; there is no name, with whatsoever emphasis of passionate love repeated, of
which the echo is not faint at last.
My dear wife, so greatly missed...