Wednesday 11 October 2017

His Country Again

Unwatch'd, the garden bough shall sway,
      The tender blossom flutter down,
      Unloved, that beech will gather brown,
This maple burn itself away;
Unloved, the sun-flower, shining fair,
      Ray round with flames her disk of seed,
      And many a rose-carnation feed
With summer spice the humming air;
Unloved, by many a sandy bar,
      The brook shall babble down the plain,
      At noon or when the lesser wain
Is twisting round the polar star;
Uncared for, gird the windy grove,
      And flood the haunts of hern and crake;
      Or into silver arrows break
The sailing moon in creek and cove;
Till from the garden and the wild
      A fresh association blow,
      And year by year the landscape grow
Familiar to the stranger's child;
As year by year the labourer tills
      His wonted glebe, or lops the glades;
      And year by year our memory fades
From all the circle of the hills.

Inspired, or reminded, by my recent visit to Somersby, I've been rereading In Memoriam. It's a poem imbued not only with overwhelming grief but a powerful sense of place and the passing seasons. In the lines above, these elements intermingle beautifully as Tennyson contemplates leaving the family home, the rectory in Somersby. 'The brook' is of course the one that gave its name to a narrative poem by Tennyson and, more famously, to the lyric embedded in it - 'I come from haunts of coot and hern...' The present-day brook, down the road from the rectory, is a shadow of its former self, no longer babbling down the plain but rather trickling steadily. But the poem lives on – as does In Memoriam.

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