Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ENGLISH COUNTRY (WHERE THREE SHIRES MEET), by WILLIAM BLISS



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ENGLISH COUNTRY (WHERE THREE SHIRES MEET), by            
First Line: No change is here. If chaucer came
Last Line: Of wood-smoke, as 'twere matins bell.
Subject(s): England; Landscape; English


NO change is here. If Chaucer came
He'd know each village for the same
Nor find the Earth had greatly aged
Since, singing Her, he pilgrimaged.
He'd note, no doubt, each Church "restored,"
And wonder where they housed Our Lord;
Or, frowning, mark a clumsy patch
In yonder barn roof's mossy thatch;
Might marvel at the empty inn
And, certes, find the ale too thin.
But if he straitly kept aloof
From motored road and slated roof,
He'd know each way he trod again
By bridle-path or greensward lane.
Which way his English feet might go
The English grass his feet would know:
Which way his friendly smile should light
An answering smile should him requite
From every twig in every hedge
As is the Poet's privilege.

Old oak and ash and twisted thorn,
Sons of trees born when he was born,
Would vie, with beckoning arms, to show
Just where their fathers used to grow.
There, where an oak he helped to fell,
A great-grandson stands sentinel
And, scarce an acorn's-cast away,
A likely youngster's making play.
(For, though we men immortal be,
We are more mortal than a tree,
Since trees this happy God's grace have
To live—their fathers' epitaph.)
And he beneath their shade would sit
And see the twilight ghost owl flit
And, with the sunset wind and them,
Breathe low their fathers' Requiem.

Yon mounted crest of beechen wood
Stands 'thwart the hill where then it stood,
And, though the trees stretch not so far,
Beech were they then—and beech they are.
Young Cherwell runs where Cherwell did
And fish lie still where fish lay hid,
And neither, if he stopped to figure,
One single foot or inch the bigger.
The fat, ploughed fields still, glistening, lie
For corn to sprout, be reaped and die.
The uplands still their short grass keep
Still loved of the close-grazing sheep.
The tangled hedges, winter bare,
Still crimson-berried chaplets wear
Or, pleached and trimmed, would touch his heart,
Pictures of England's oldest art.

The lichened barns are not more gray,
Hayricks have still the scent of hay,
The yards are littered still with straw,
The noisy rooks still, clamouring, caw,
The thrush, the ouzel, and the wren
Still flute the notes they fluted then,
'Neath the same eaves the martins build,
With the same smells the farms are filled,
Ivy still hugs the reluctant trees,
Straw skeps still shelter sleeping bees,
Still in the cart-ruts water gleams,
The same stones step the same small streams,
And over the same water-splash
Leans the same fond narcissus ash.

Nay, blindfold if he walked, his feet
The conscious earth would, answering, meet.
By sense of sound and smell alone
He'd know this country for his own;
For each swinkt hedger's Doric speech
His homing ears would, homely, reach.
Though Angelus no more may call
He'd crunch the crisp grass at duskfall,
And frosty dawns by scent could tell
Of wood-smoke, as 'twere Matins bell.





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