Tuesday 26 March 2013

Pools and Bloom

Two great poets were born on this day - A.E. Housman in 1859 and Robert Frost in 1874.
Let us first look around  - and forward - with Frost, whose Spring Pools beautifully notates a scene that will be familiar to anyone who's walked in woodland this sodden late winter/'spring'...

'These pools that, though in forests, still reflect
The total sky almost without defect,
And like the flowers beside them, chill and shiver,
Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone,
And yet not out by any brook or river,
But up by roots to bring dark foliage on.
The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods---
Let them think twice before they use their powers
To blot out and drink up and sweep away
These flowery waters and these watery flowers
From snow that melted only yesterday.'

And now to look forward with Housman to the real spring that must - despite all current appearances to the contrary - come...

'LOVELIEST of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,       
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room, 
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.'

When J.L. Carr - the Last Englishman - was a headmaster in Kettering,
he would, when the cherries were in bloom, lead the entire school through the nearby streets chanting this poem aloud. Many years later, some of his ex-pupils were surprised to find that hey still knew it by heart. That, I would suggest, is true education.

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