Sunday, 2 March 2008

Andrew Young, poetry

I may have mentioned once that only when I left school at 16 did my proper education begin, because then I learned about the things which really interested me. When I was 20 I enrolled in a correspondence course (English Literature) intending to further my education and become a journalist. Well, I never finished the course, and I never became a journalist, but I have never lost my love of literature, nor my love of writing. I was going through my poetry books recently and came across “Ten Twentieth-century Poets” by Maurice Wollman, last printing 1972. Some of the poems in it are firm favourites of mine, others I am only encountering properly now, as the book sits by my computer keyboard, opened whilst I wait for the broadband connection to actually connect . . .

In this way, I have, belatedly, discovered Andrew Young. He was born in 1885 and was still alive at the time this book was published (though long dead now, one assumes). Born in Elgin, Scotland, he became a Canon of Chichester Cathedral in 1948, and Vicar of Stonegate, Sussex, in 1941. He wrote with the air of someone who spent long hours just standing and observing nature, a real countryman, whose knowledge came from intimate acquaintance with the outdoors in all weathers, at every time of year. I hope you will enjoy him with me for a while:


I made myself as a tree,

No withered leaf twirling on me;

No, not a bird that stirred my boughs,

As looking out from wizard brows

I watched those lithe and lovely forms

That raised the leaves in storms.

I watched them leap and run,

Their bodies hollowed in the sun

To thin transparency,

That I could clearly see

The shallow colour of their blood

Joyous in love’s full flood.

I was content enough,

Watching that serious game of love,

That happy hunting in the wood

Where the pursuer was the more pursued,

To stand in breathless hush

With no more life myself than tree or bush.

This is SO beautiful and speaks to me of the ancient hollow-ways I too have known:


Years and years and man’s thoughtful foot,

Drip and guttering rains and mute

Shrinkage of snows, and shaggy-hoofed

Horse have sunk this lane tree-roofed

Now patched with blossoming elder,

Wayfaring-tree and guelder;

Lane that eases the sharp-scarped hill

Winding the slope with leisurely will.

Foot of Briton, formal Roman,

Saxon and Dane and Sussex yeoman

Have delved it deep as river-bed,

Till I walk wading to my head

In air so close and hot

And by the wind forgot,

It seems to me that in this place

The earth is breathing on my face.

Here I loiter a lost hour,

Listen to bird, look on a flower.

What will be left when I am gone?

A trodden root, a loosened stone

And by the blackthorn caught

Some gossamery thought

Of thankfulness to those dead bones

That knit hills closer than loose stones.

Just one more perhaps, as I used to live in Wiltshire and love the downland and the larks singing:


The cuckoo’s double note

Loosened like bubbles from a drowning throat

Floats through the air

In mockery of pipit, lark and stare.

The stable-boys thud by

Their horses slinging divots in the sky

And with bright hooves

Printing the sodden turf with lucky grooves.

As still as a windhover

A shepherd in his flapping coat leans over

His tall sheep-crook

And shearlings, tegs and yoes cons like a book.

And one tree-crowned long barrow

Stretched like a sow that has brought forth her farrow

Hides a king’s bones

Lying like broken sticks among the stones.


Dawn said...

Thank you so much for stopping by my Show and Tell yesterday - well, I see that it's already Sunday in England!

I think my new bowl would be perfect for trifle.

My brother and family live in Manchester - we've been there once and hope to come back once we're retired - soon!

MammyT said...

Oh, Beautiful, beautiful. I have to find some of these marvellous poets for my own shelves.

"Have delved it deep as river-bed,
Till I walk wading to my head
In air so close and hot
And by the wind forgot,
It seems to me that in this place
The earth is breathing on my face." I've been in places like that in the American Wilderness, but here we think of the many Native Americans who have trod before us.
"Their horses slinging divots in the sky

"And with bright hooves
Printing the sodden turf with lucky grooves."

Awesome! thank you!