Saturday, 9 January 2021

'But once I lived in Gloucestershire...'

 Born on this day in 1881 was one of the most splendidly named of all English poets – Lascelles Abercrombie. His poetry long ago fell out of fashion, along with that of most of the other 'Georgians' (and, from what I've seen of it, its fate seems to have been deserved). However, Abercrombie had a successful career as a literary critic and academic, and he was, for one glorious period, at the centre of a literary group from which two great poets would emerge. The group was the 'Dymock poets', based on and around the village of Dymock on the Gloucestershire-Herefordshire border. From 1911 to 1916 Abercrombie lived in a cottage, The Gallows, at Ryton, near Dymock, where the loose-knit circle of poets met, stayed or visited – John Drinkwater, Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Gibson and the two greats in the making, Robert Frost and Edward Thomas. It was at Dymock that the intense friendship between Frost and Thomas – the friendship that was to make a poet of Thomas – was born. 
   Frost's 'Iris by Night' recalls a memorable walk that he and Thomas, 'elected friends', took at Dymock –

One misty evening, one another's guide,
We two were groping down a Malvern side
The last wet fields and dripping hedges home.
There came a moment of confusing lights,
Such as according to belief in Rome
Were seen of old at Memphis on the heights
Before the fragments of a former sun
Could concentrate anew and rise as one.
Light was a paste of pigment in our eyes.
And then there was a moon and then a scene
So watery as to seem submarine;
In which we two stood saturated, drowned.
The clover-mingled rowan on the ground
Had taken all the water it could as dew,
And still the air was saturated too,
Its airy pressure turned to water weight.
Then a small rainbow like a trellis gate,
A very small moon-made prismatic bow,
Stood closely over us through which to go.
And then we were vouchsafed a miracle
That never yet to other two befell
And I alone of us have lived to tell.
A wonder! Bow and rainbow as it bent,
Instead of moving with us as we went
(To keep the pots of gold from being found),
It lifted from its dewy pediment
Its two mote-swimming many-coloured ends
And gathered them together in a ring.
And we stood in it softly circled round
From all division time or foe can bring
In a relation of elected friends.

And Frost's strange, uneasy poem 'The Sound of Trees' was written for Lascelles Abercrombie – 

I wonder about the trees.
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace,
And fixity in our joys,
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.

Later in his life, Abercrombie seems to have looked back on the Dymock years as a kind of lost paradise. In 1932 he wrote:
'I have lived in a cottage in the daffodil country and I have, for a time, done what I wanted to do ... and I have known what it is to have Wilfred Gibson and Robert Frost for my neighbours; and John Drinkwater, Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas, Will Davies, Bob Trevelyan, Arthur Ransome, have drunk my cider, and talked in my garden. I make no cider now, and I have no garden. But once I lived in Gloucestershire.'

No comments:

Post a Comment