When Green Hill led to Highcliff Nab Up from Kemplah Fields, Then when all my world was young And all was meant to be, Life was enriched by Nature’s call; The world was one to me.
Now, when old age has taken youth And life resolves in retrospection, Those childhood days become intense, The fount of my reflection.
I feel, I touch, the close-knit turf That dressed the hills I trod. The waves of bracken still haunt my mind As if bespoke of God, And heather, clothing moor and dale, Purpling the timeless scene, Rekindles every hope I have Been granted in the life I’ve seen.
the beck my beck North England Old English bece Dutch beek German bach my beck my early life my once-upon-a-time world
it was all things to me my territory my front line against the outside world fell in fished out fished in fishes out tiddlers minnows sticklebacks countless times jumped it daily dammed it constructed waterfalls floods flooded floods receded dredged repaired renewed
succoured my imagination my Coliseum my Olympic stadium succeeding my umbilical chord as my link to the world it ran through my heart and past my house gave me a ballpark my own adventure playground complete with running water subterranean tunnels waterfalls dams stepping stones overhanging trees to climb to suspend myself dangling over the running water sandstone-walled bridges for carving initials routes to explore in both directions crossings to navigate ledges to crawl along overgrown banks forbidden sections Rubicon for gang warfare Lethe at dusk
above all suspending my belief in dreams for this was my reality
once upon a time
NOTE: North England. BECK … A brook, especially a swiftly running stream with steep banks.
Sir John Everett Millais … ‘Bubbles’ 1886 – Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight
My Parents Kept me from Children Who Were Rough
My parents kept me from children who were rough and who threw words like stones and who wore torn clothes. Their thighs showed through rags. They ran in the street And climbed cliffs and stripped by the country streams.
I feared more than tigers their muscles like iron And their jerking hands and their knees tight on my arms. I feared the salt coarse pointing of those boys Who copied my lisp behind me on the road.
They were lithe, they sprang out behind hedges Like dogs to bark at our world. They threw mud And I looked another way, pretending to smile, I longed to forgive them, yet they never smiled.
. . . by Stephen Spender
Spender’s disability of having a club foot and a stammer intensely affected his childhood memories, particular those of rejection by his peers. As a grown man and a distinguished poet and author, he expressed those feelings of early rejection, of being an outsider in this moving poem which, in some ways, is akin to Philip Larkin’s remembered distaste felt for the way his parents had brought him up (See: ‘This Be The Verse’ ). Spender regretted his parents keeping him in a ‘bubble’, protecting him as they saw it, while all the time he had wanted just to be ‘one of them’.
Some of my readers will recall that I used Spender’s phrase “threw words like stones”in my recent poem: ‘The Black House’ (q.v.).