The pool is off the Dorking-Guildford road,
at the foot of the North Downs; is fed
from a spring, which seeps through chalk and flint;
is so-called for allegedly no birds sing
in this glade of ash, oak and yew;
a place of legend, of Druidic worship,
rumoured deep enough to drown secrets.
A sharp March wind rattles twigs and branches.
By the side of a flint pathway – that leads
to the top of the Downs with its Pilgrims’ Way,
an old drovers’ road – is a second world war
‘pillbox’, its unadorned and concrete
symmetry stark, a forgotten reminder
of fears of invasion from Bonaparte
to Hitler – not without reason in this land,
like many, pillaged over and over.
Edward Thomas, after his breakdown,
cycled westward, a century ago,
from Clapham to the Quantocks in pursuit
of spring in turbulent weather like this.
That laureate of the moment – the hoot
of an owl, grass stilled in the heat – briefly stopped here
the year before he wrote his first poem,
two years before he enlisted, three
before a shell blast killed him at Arras.
ArrasBonaparteClaphamDorkingDruidicEdward ThomasFlintGuildfordHitlerinvasionlegend.North DownsPilgrim’s WaypillagedSecond World Warshell blastSilent Poolthe Quantocks‘pillbox’