Saturday, June 28, 2008

Train (Updated)

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.


Dale said...

I've always loved that poem.

Zhoen said...

Nearly prose.

The present moment can seem too painful, but it must be lived, or it will come back as an inescapable painful memory.

herhimnbryn said...

I have always loved this poem and even now the mention of the blackbird brings tears........
There is a poem by him about walking into a wet orchard ('It Rains') and a line .....'And I am nearly as happy as possible', maybe that's the way it is.

A wonderful post mm, like you say, breathe.

Oh btw, I have a new place, the link is at the top of my links list on the mosaic blog....come visit....breathe(0)

herhimnbryn said...

ps...thanks for the article link. Shall now find his poems on the bookshelf and re-read.

Sky said...

your comments are so meaningful to me.. i enjoyed this post very much. first let me say how much i miss the sound of the trains in the distance - so soothing to me.

i realized upon thinking about your post and comments how much of my time, in earlier years especially, was focused on worry. i was devising a survival plan on some level much of the time. was i living in the moment? a hypervigilance about the moment, i suppose, but surely not a life which permitted me to be fully open to the moment - to hear birdsong or notice fragrant flowers or be at peace in the moment. as an adult that began to change when i was in control of my own environment, and i began to reclaim my life and open myself more fully to the world before me. life is so much different now, and though i still tend toward worry, i live more moments in the present than anywhere else. yoga and becoming aware of my breath probably have contributed hugely to that.

great post, as usual!

Dick said...

A great post. Good to see Edward Thomas getting his due. He tends to dwindle in the shadow of his more anthologised peers.

Sadly, most of those branch lines are now private property. BR lost no time in the immediate post-Beeching era flogging the land off. Now, the canals...

Dick said...

Always read the links before commenting! That's quite a list of potential re-openings and presumably Transport Britain have done their work in checking the current status of the ex-lines. But little chance when public transport is operated for maximum profit from minimum investment.

MB said...


mm said...

Thank you everyone. Comments like these are what keeps me blogging.

starnitesky said...

I love to travel by train, unfortuantely we are cut off by train thanks to Dr Beeching.

Beautiful poem.