Saturday, June 28, 2008
Update: I also love synchronicity. Today's issue of the Guardian contains an absorbing article on Edward Thomas. Poetry. Therapy. Ecology. Makes me want to read more.
I love train travel.
Apparently a serious expansion of the rail network is planned for 2020 or thereabouts. Good. In addition to the high speed lines though, what about re-opening at least some of the branch lines that were closed (thank you Dr Beeching) in the 1960s? They will probably be needed sooner or later.
It is indeed late June, so an unashamedly famous ode to a now-defunct country station about an hour's drive from here, on one of those vanished local lines. The poet, Edward Thomas, was killed in battle in 1917 during the First World War. (He was born in the same year - 1878 - as my grandfather: the latter had a defect in one eye and so was excused the call-up).
Yes. I remember Adlestrop
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Some one cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop — only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and around him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
The context of the war has turned the poem into an elegy for lost innocence and a world that never really existed. Yet its real theme is the wonder of the present moment. And the power of the unexpected.
A sudden halt. High summer. A hiss of steam, and the observation that (I think) makes the poem: the clearing of the throat. The song of the blackbird.
It takes shock or ecstasy or good company to jolt me into the present moment, application and some kind of faith to live in it on a daily basis, if only for seconds at a time. Even as a child - little worrier that I was, living in a stressful home - I found it difficult. No guarantees. No wonder so few manage it. No wonder I tried to escape.
One minute, one second at a time. Feel. Breathe. Sing.
Photograph uploaded at Poems and Prose by Kendrive.The original station sign, preserved in a nearby bus shelter.