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The Heart of England

The Heart of England
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Title: The Heart of England
Release Date: 2018-07-29
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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In the html version of this eBook:

  • images are linked to higher-resolution versions of the illustrations; and
  • the songs at the end of the book include links to midi and lilypond format transcriptions.

THE HEART OF ENGLAND

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THE HEART OF ENGLANDSERIES

This Series opens with a new work by Mr.Edward Thomas, that curious and enthusiasticexplorer of the English Countryside, whoseprose style gives him a claim to be regardedas the successor, as he is the biographer, ofRichard Jefferies. The Series includes a newedition of Mr. Thomas’s other work, “TheHeart of England,” and Mr. Hilaire Belloc’s“The Historic Thames.” These twovolumes were originally issued in limitededitions at one Guinea net per volume.

THE SOUTH COUNTRY. ByEdward Thomas. Small crown 8vo.3s. 6d. net.

Mr. Thomas in this new book gives hisimpressions of a year’s wanderings afoot asthe seasons change through Kent, Sussex,Hampshire, Wiltshire and Cornwall. It is aprose-poem of the most beautiful counties inEngland.

THE HEART OF ENGLAND.By Edward Thomas. Small crown 8vo.3s. 6d. net.

THE HISTORIC THAMES.By Hilaire Belloc, M.P. 3s. 6d. net.

Prospectus of above Books sent post free on application.

J. M. DENT & CO.
29-30, BEDFORD STREET, LONDON, W.C.

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country scene

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THE HEART OF
ENGLAND

by Edward Thomas

LONDON
J. M. DENT & CO.
1909

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All rights reserved

[vii]

TO
HENRY W. NEVINSON

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CONTENTS

PART I.
LEAVING TOWN
CHAP.PAGE
I.LEAVING TOWN1
PART II
THE LOWLAND
II.FAUNUS21
III.NOT HERE, O APOLLO!26
IV.WALKING WITH GOOD COMPANY28
V.NO MAN’S GARDEN31
VI.MARCH DOUBTS37
VII.A DECORATED CHURCH41
VIII.GARLAND DAY44
IX.AN OLD WOOD49
X.IN A FARMYARD52
XI.MEADOWLAND56
XII.AN OLD FARM64
XIII.POPPIES69
XIV.AUGUST73
XV.OLD-FASHIONED TIMES77
XVI.ONE GREEN FIELD83
XVII.THE BROOK88
XVIII.AN AUTUMN GARDEN93
XIX.THE WALNUT TREE97
XX.A GOLDEN AGE100
XXI.THE VILLAGE103
[x]XXII.ST. MARTIN’S SUMMER118
XXIII.THE PRIDE OF THE MORNING121
XXIV.THE METAMORPHOSIS124
XXV.EARTH CHILDREN126
XXVI.NOVEMBER RAIN138
XXVII.JANUARY SUNSHINE140
XXVIII.THE BARGE143
XXIX.A WINTER MORNING146
PART III
THE UPLAND
XXX.CHERRY BLOSSOM153
XXXI.THE FOX HUNT155
XXXII.APPLE BLOSSOM166
XXXIII.A LITTLE BEFORE HARVEST170
XXXIV.AUTUMN BELLS174
XXXV.SUNDAY176
PART IV.
THE MOUNTAINS
XXXVI.THE FIRST DAFFODILS183
XXXVII.THE MIRROR192
XXXVIII.UNDER THE MOOR198
XXXIX.A HARVEST MOON202
XL.THE INN205
PART V
THE SEA
XLI.A MARCH HAUL211
XLII.FISHING BOATS214
XLIII.CLOUDS OVER THE SEA216
XLIV.THE MARSH220
XLV.ONE SAIL AT SEA223
XLVI.THE CASTLE OF CARBONEK225

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NOTE

Of the five songs printed at the end of thisbook, only “La Fille du Roi” has beenpublished before, I believe. “The HolmBank Hunting Song” and “Poor OldHorse” were sung by competitors for folk-songprizes at the annual WestmorelandMusical Festival, and I owe them to thekindness of Mr. George Rathbone. “TheMowing Song” and “Mary, come into theField,” were given to me by friends.

Edward Thomas.

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PART I
LEAVING TOWN

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THE HEART OF ENGLAND

CHAPTER I
LEAVING TOWN

Sunday afternoon had perfected the silence of thesuburban street. Every one had gone into his house totea; none had yet started for church or promenade; thestreet was empty, except for a white pigeon that peckedidly in the middle of the road and once leaned upon onewing, raised the other so as to expose her tender side andtook the rain deliciously; so calm and unmolested wasthe hour.

The houses were in unbroken rows and arranged inpairs, of which one had a bay window on the groundfloor and one had not. Some had laurels in front; somehad names. But they were so much alike that the streetresembled a great storehouse where yards of goods, all ofone pattern, are exposed, all with that painful lack ofcharacter that makes us wish to rescue one and take itaway and wear it, and soil it, and humanise it rapidly.

Soon a boy of nine years old came out of one houseand stood at the gate. At first he moved briskly andlooked in every direction as if expecting to see some onewhom he knew; but in a little while he paused and merely[2]looked towards the pigeon, so fixedly that perhaps he sawit not. The calm silenced him, took him into its bosom,yet also depressed him. Had he dared, he would haveshouted or run; he would have welcomed the sound ofa piano, of a dog barking, of a starling coldly piping.While he still paused an old man rounded the corner ofthe street and came down in the roadway towards him.

The old man was small and straight, and to his thinfigure the remains of a long black coat and grey trousersadhered with singular grace. You could not say that hewas well dressed, but rather that he was in the penultimatestage of a transformation like Dryope’s or Daphne’s,which his pale face had not altogether escaped. Hisneglected body seemed to have grown this grey rindthat flapped like birch bark. Had he been born in it theclothing could not have been more apt. The eye travelledfrom these clothes with perfect satisfaction—as from abranch to its fruit—to his little crumpled face and itspartial crust of hair. Yet he walked. One hand on astick, the other beneath a basket of watercress, he walkedwith quick, short steps, now and then calling out unexpectedly,as if in answer to a question, “Watercresses!”No one interrupted him. He was hungry; he nibbledat pieces of cress with his gums, and so kneaded his faceas if it had been dough. He passed the boy; he stooped,picked up a rotten apple, and in the act frightened thepigeon, which rose, as the boy saw, and disappeared.

The boy raised his head and watched. He saw theold man—as in an eloquent book and not with his ownusually indolent eyes—and thought him a traveller.Yes! that was how a traveller looked—a strange, free[3]man, hatless, walking in the road, ignoring puddles,talking carelessly to himself; from the country—suchwas his stick and the manner of his clothes; with somethingmagnificent and comely in his hoariness; sleepingthe boy knew not where, perhaps not at all, but going onand on, certainly not to church, but perhaps to places withmountains, icebergs, houses in the branches of trees, greatwaters, camels, monkeys, crocodiles, parrots, ivory, cannibals,curved swords. And the boy flushed to think thatthe quiet street was an avenue to all the East, the Pole,the Amazon ... to dark men who wondered about thesunlight, the wind, the rain, and whence they came ...to towns set down in the heart of forests and lonely asships at sea. But whatever he was, the old man was moreblessed than any one whom the boy had ever seen.

The old man was gone out of sight. The boy startedto run and follow; but he stumbled and fell and utteredhis intolerable longing in a fit of grave tears, while thestreet began to be bright and restless again.

I thought to follow him myself. But the next day Iwas still in that grey land, looking at it from a railwaytrain.

The hundreds of streets parallel or at angles with therailway—some exposing flowery or neglected back gardens,bedrooms half seen through open windows, pigeon houseswith pigeons bowing or flashing in flight, all manner ofdomesticities surprised—others a line of shop fronts andgorgeous or neat or faded women going to and fro—others,again, a small space that had been green and wasstill grassy under its encumbrance of dead trees, scaffoldingand bricks—some with inns having good names—these[4]streets are the strangest thing in the world. They havenever been discovered. They cannot be classified. Thereis no tradition about them. Poets have not shown howwe are to regard them. They are to us as mountainswere in the Middle Ages, sublime, difficult, immense;and yet so new that we have inherited no certain attitudetowards them, of liking or dislike. They suggest so muchthat they mean nothing at all. The eye strains at themas at Russian characters which are known to stand forsomething beautiful or terrible; but there is no translator:it sees a thousand things which at the moment of seeingare significant, but they obliterate one another. Morethan battlefield or library, they are dense with humanlife. They are as multitudinous and painful and unsatisfyingas the stars. They propose themselves as a problemto the mind, only a little less so at night when theirsurfaces hand the mind on to the analogies of sea wavesor large woods.

Nor at the end of my journey was the problem solved.It was a land of new streets and half-built streets anddevastated lanes. Ivied elm trunks lay about with scaffoldpoles, uprooted shrubs were mingled with bricks, mortarwith turf, shining baths and sinks and rusty fire grateswith dead thistles and thorns. Here and there a man ina silk hat or a little girl with neat ankles and high brownboots stepped amidst the deeply rutted mud. An artistwho wished to depict the Fall and some sympathy withit in the face of a ruined Eden might have had little todo but copy an acre of the surviving fields.

A north wind swept the land clean. In the hedgesand standing trees, it sobbed at intervals like a bitter child[5]forcing himself to cry; in the windowless houses it madea merrier sound like a horn. It drove workmen andpassers-by to spend as much time as possible in “The King’sHead,” and there the medley of the land was repeated.Irish and Cockney accents mingled with Kentish;Americans would have been out of place. No oneseemed to dislike the best room in the inn, where therewas a piano, a coloured picture of Lord Roberts and ofthe landlord as a youth, an old print of snipe-shooting,some gaudy and fanciful advertisements of spirits, and nofire to warm the wall-paper which had once had a patterncharacteristic of poor bathrooms.

I felt a kind of exalted and almost cheerful gloom as Istepped out and saw that it was raining and would go onraining. O exultation of the sorrowful heart when Naturealso seems to be sorrowing! What strange merrimentis this which the dejected mind and the wind in thetrees are making together! What high lavolt of theshuffling heels of despair! As two lovers wounded andderided will make of their complainings one true joy thattriumphs, so will the concealing rain and the painfulmind.

The workmen had gone; faint lights began to appearthrough the blinds of the finished houses. There was nosunset, no change from day to night. The end of theday was like what is called a natural death in bed; anill-laid fire dies thus. With the darkness a strange spiritof quiet joy appeared in the air. Old melodies floatingabout it on that mourning wind. The rain formed amist and a veil over the skeletons round about, but itrevealed more than it took away; Nature gained courage[6]in the gloom. The rain smoothed her as it will washaway tears on the lonely hills. The trees were back inEden again. They were as before in their dim, statelycompanies. The bad walking was no annoyance. OnceI came upon a line of willows above dead reeds that usedto stand out by a pond as the first notice to one walkingout of London that he was in the country at last; theywere unchanged; they welcomed and encouraged oncemore. The lighted windows in the mist had each agreeting; they were as the windows we strain our eyesfor as we descend to them from the hills of Wales orKent; like those, they had the art of seeming a magicalencampment among the trees, brave, cheerful lightswhich men and women kept going amidst the dense andpowerful darkness. The thin, incompleted walls

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