Tag Archives ‘The Shropshire Lad’

A SHROPSHIRE LAD…

…is the first book of poetry I owned –

a breast pocket sized hardback, slightly foxing.

It was my father’s: his name neatly

in capitals on the inside cover

in indelible pencil – a Londoner,

the son of immigrants. When I was ten

my mother gave it me. I liked the first line

‘From Clee to heaven the beacon burns’,

imagining it set to music.

 

Following his death on active service, the book

was sent back with all his other things.

I never knew him. He never saw me.

He died, an ocean away, three months

after my birth. He could be my grandson now.

He touched this book. I touch it, sniff it.

Old paper smells almost aromatic

like incense, always comforting, always

intriguing. Into my forties, I

thought of him every single day.

 

The book falls open automatically

at poems 35 and 36:

 

…On the idle hill of summer, 

Sleepy with the flow of streams,

Far I hear the steady drummer 

Drumming like a noise in dreams… 

 

…White in the moon the long road lies, 

The moon stands blank above;

White in the moon the long road lies 

That leads me from my love…

 

but this is the one I return to always:

 

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Is hung with bloom along the bough,

And stands about the woodland ride

Wearing white for Eastertide.

 

Now, of my three score years and ten,

Twenty will not come again,

And take from seventy springs a score,

It only leaves me fifty more.

 

And since to look at things in bloom

Fifty springs are little room,

About the woodlands I will go

To see the cherry hung with snow. 

 

 

 

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