Laurie Lee Poetry Posts
The Laurie Lee Wildlife Walk – The Poetry Posts
Following last week’s description of the walk, Bobby and I thought you might like to read the actual poems on the posts. Some of them with a view across the valley behind them. Some with a sunset. So, here they are in all their glory. Immortalised across the valley in which they were written. Many years, I gather, before real fame came to Laurie Lee with “Cider with Rosie”. They are in the order in which we started the walk from the Woolpack …
Before setting off on the walk we had lunch in the delightful Butchers Arms at Sheepscombe nearby. Here’s Barbara.
The Abandoned Shade
Walking the abandoned shade
of childhood’s habitations,
my ears remembering chime,
hearing their buried voices.
Hearing original summer,
the birdlit banks of dawn,
the yellow-hammer beat of blood
gilding my cradle eyes.
Hearing the tin-moon rise
and the sunsets penny fall,
the creep of frost and weep of thaw
and bells of winter robins.
Hearing again the talking house
and the four vowels of the wind,
and midnight monsters whispering
In the white throat of my room.
Season and landscape’s liturgy,
badger and sneeze of rain,
the bleat of bats, and bounce of rabbits
bubbling under the hill:
Each old and echo-salted tongue
sings to my backward glance,
but the voice of the boy, the boy I seek,
within my mouth is dumb.
Frith Wood Nature Reserve
If ever I saw blessing in there air
I see it now in this still early day
Where lemon-green the vaporous morning drips
Wet sunlight on the powder of my eye.
Brown bubble-film of blue, the sky wraps round
Weeds of warm light whose every root and rod
Splutters with soapy green, and all the world
Sweats with the bead of summer in its bud.
If ever I heard blessing it is there
Where birds in trees that shoals and shadows are
Splash with their hidden wings and drops of sound
Break on my ears their crests of throbbing air.
Pure in the haze the emerald sun dilates,
The lips of sparrows milk the mossy stones,
While white as water by the lake a girl
Swims her green hand among the gathered swans.
Now, as the almond burns its smoking wick,
Dropping small flames to light the candled grass;
Now, as my low blood scales its second chance,
If ever world were blessed, now it is.
Now tilts the sun his monument,
now sags his raw unwritten stone
deep in October’s diamond clay.
And oozy sloes like flies are hung
malignant on the shovelled stem,
too late to ripen or to grow.
Now is the time the wasp forsakes
the rose born like a weakly child
of earth-bed’s pallor, death-bed’s flush.
Time when the gourd upon the ground
cracks open kernel or decay
indifferent to man or worm.
Time of no violence, when at last
the shocked eye clears the battlefield
and burns down black there roots of grass.
And finds the prize of all its pain,
bedded in smoke, on leaves of blood –
love’s charcoal cross, unloose, unwon.
The season does not leave your limbs,
like a covered field you lie,
and remembering the exultant plough
your sheltered bosom stirs
and whispers warm with rain.
Waiting does not leave your eyes,
your belly is as bright as snow
and their your naked fingers
are spread over the dark flowers
shaking out their roots.
My kiss has not yet left your blood
but slumbers in a stream
within your quiet caves
listening to the sun it will cry forth
and burst with leaves and blossom with a name.
Snows Farm Nature Reserve
My mother would grow roses with each hand
drawing them forth from country-frothing air.
Draw them, shape them, cut them from the thorn;
lay them like bleeding shells about the house.
And with my ears to the lips of those shell-roses
I harked to their humming sea, secret as hives.
And with my lips to those same rose-shell ears
I spoke my crimson words, my stinging brain.
With lips, ears, eyes, and every finger’s nerve;
As I do now, lost mother, country gone,
groping my grief around your moss-rose heart.
Home From Abroad
Far-fetched with tales of other worlds and ways,
My skin well-oiled with wines of the Levant,
I set my face into a filial smile
To greet the pale, domestic kiss of Kent.
But shall I never learn? That gawky girl,
Recalled so primly in my foreign thoughts,
Become again the green-haired queen of love
Whose wanton form dilates as it delights.
Her rolling tidal landscape floods the eye
And drowns Chianti in a dusky stream:
The flower-flecked grasses swim with simple horses,
The hedges choke with roses fat as cream.
So do I breathe the hayblown airs of home,
And watch the sea-green elms drip birds and shadows,
And as the twilight nets the plunging sun.
My heart’s keel slides to rest among the meadows.
The Three Winds
The hard blue winds of March
shake the young sheep
and flake the long stone walls
now from the gusty grass
comes the horned music of lambs
and plovers fall out of the sky
filling their winds with snow.
Tired of his northern tune
the winds turn soft
blowing white butterflies
out of the dog-rose hedges,
and schoolroom songs are full
of boy’s green cuckoos
piping their summer round.
Till August sends at last
its brick red breath
over the baking wheat and
brushing with feathered hands
the skies of brass
with dreams of river moss
my thirsts delirium.
Laurie Lee Wood Nature Reserve
The Wild Trees
O the wild trees of my home,
forests of blue dividing the pink moon,
the iron blue of those ancient branches
with their berries of vermilion stars.
In that place of steep meadows
the stacked sheaves are roasting,
and the sun- torn tulips
are tinders of scented ashes.
But here I have lost
the dialect of your hills,
my tongue has gone blind
far from their limestone roots.
Through trunks of black elder
runs a fox like a lantern,
and the hot grasses sing,
with the slumber of larks.
But here are the thickets
of many different gestures,
torn branches of brick and steel
frozen against the sky.
O the wild trees of home
with their sounding dresses,
locks powdered with butterflies
and cheeks of blue moss.
I want to see you rise
from my brain’s dry river,
I want your lips of wet roses
laid over my eyes.
O fountains of earth and rock,
gardens perfumed with cucumber,
home of secret valleys
where the wild trees grow.
Let me return at last
to your fertile wilderness
to sleep with the coiled fernleaves
in your heart’s live stone.
Field of Autumn
Slow moves the acid breath of noon
over the copper-coated hill,
slow from the wild crab’s bearded breast
the palsied apples fall.
Like coloured smoke the day hangs fire,
taking the village without sound;
the vulture-headed sun lies low
chained to the violet ground.
The horse upon the rocky height
rolls all the valley in his eye,
but dares not raise his foot or move
his shoulder from the fly.
The sheep, snail-backed against the wall
lifts her blind face but does not know
the cry her blackened tongue gives forth
is the first bleat of snow.
Each bird and stone, each roof and well,
feels the gold foot of autumn pass;
the splintered bones of grass.
Slow moves the hour that sucks our life,
slow drops the late wasp from the peat,
the rose tree’s thread of sent draws thin –
and stops upon the air.
Behold the apple’s rounded worlds:
juice green of July rain,
the black polestar of flowers, the rind
mapped with its crimson stain.
The russet, crab and cottage red
burn to the sun’s hot brass,
then drop like sweat from every branch
and bubble in the grass.
They lie as want as they fall,
and where they fall and break,
the stallion clamps his crunching jaws,
the starling stabs his beak.
In each plump gourd the cider bite
of boy’s teeth tears the skin;
the waltzing wasp consumes his share,
the bent worm enters in.
There is one more sign and this is placed in `Stratford Park” Stroud.
Stroud – The Museum in the Park
On eves of cold, when slow coal fires,
rooted in basements, burn and branch,
brushing with smile the city air;
When quartered moons pale in the sky,
and neons glow along the dark
like deadly nightshade on a briar;
Above the muffled traffic then
I hear the owl, and at his note
I shudder in my private chair.
For like an auger he has come
to roost among our crumbling walls,
his bloodied talons shipped in fur.
Some secret lure of time it seems
has called him from his country wastes
to hunt a newer wasteland here.
And where the candelabra swung
bright with the dancers’ thousand eyes
now his black, hooded pupils stare,
And where the silk- shoed lovers ran
with lust of diamonds in their hair,
he opens now his silent wing,
And, like a stroke of doom, drops down,
and swoops across the empty hall,
and plucks a quick mouse off the stair…
Lighting a candle for Diddley
My daughter-in-law Marie sings in a choir and sung recently in the magnificent Lancing College Chapel. A concert in aid of Friends of Sussex Hospices –
Here is daughter/granddaughter Giselle lighting a candle to Granny Diddley.