Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, STANE STREET, by EDMUND CHARLES BLUNDEN



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STANE STREET, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Mown, strown are the grayhead grasses
Last Line: The ringer ceasing, lingers long.
Alternate Author Name(s): Blunden, Edmund


I

MOWN, strown are the grayhead grasses,
Red sorrels with them lie;
The buttercup's beauty passes
And the proud moon-daisies die.

The birds have hid in the coppice,
For the drought has had long lease,
Sleepy with bees and poppies;
Birdsongs, brooksongs cease.

Brown stems and wan white petals
Of crowsfoot trammel the brook;
Wild hops and sloven nettles
Shut out its sunny look.

And muddy and busy with midges
Is every tarrying plash,
And under the culverts and bridges
Horse-stingers thwart and flash.

Our Arun is sluggish and fenny,
Like water of marlpit or moat,
Meshed thick with slimed weeds many
And stout-stemmed yellow clote.

II

This way the broad leys seemed to me
As we went riding on
Where rode the Roman cavalry
Two thousand years agone:
The Stane Street, clad in dust and glare,
Had lost the mystery
That garlands relics great and rare
Of far antiquity.

Yet there was beauty all the same,
As we went riding on,
In every sturdy yeoman name
The signposts bade us con:
As Storrington berhymed of late,
And (ere that) Alversane,
Whence all the hazed hills seemed to wait
With blurred weak eyes for rain.

And as we came to Pulborough town
Storm rose from Arundel,
The first hot rain came splashing down,
Thunder began to knell.
The tempest worked up fever-pace,
White hissed the bubbles flung;
Wild sudden freshets ran their race,
The fleetfoot winds were sprung.

We sheltered till the short-lived shower
Had stilled the thunder's wrath,
And fragrances of leaf and flower
Flew forth from plat and swath:
The bevying clouds thinned into light
Like locks of silvery hair;
And tree and spire, and house and height
Looked clear through glistening air.

Then southward still we went well pleased,
In love with every rural thing,
And, now the heat-god was appeased,
The sweet small birds were brave to sing:
But, ere another mile was rode,
We came to Hardham, shy as fair
And by the little church we slowed
Descrying steps of beauty there.

III

The little gate latch clinked and stopped,
We trod the churchway, white and warm
With flagstones drying from the storm,
Though lichened gravestones still stood sopped
And splashes from the church eaves dropped.

All hushed we reached the porch, and found
The door ajar: we entered in,
Such trancing rest from dust and din
Held us a moment's space spell-bound.
Then we for gladness looked around.

The dim-traced paintings on the wall,
The brown initialled altar-rail,
The altar with its breded vail,
The vague light that the panes let fall,
The pulpit and the vestry small --

No trophies, no begilded shows
Can bring the soul of holiness
To make her hermitage and bless
Where pride and strife and dogma prose
To hypocrites in gaudy rows.

The smallest things are made divine,
The old low pews, the narrow tiles
Deep red, that pave the tiny aisles,
The books whose gildings no more shine --
O hamlet church, O heavenly shrine.

Wherever Faith kneeled simple-strong
Of old, the memory abides;
Dead rose whose silken fragrance glides
Still from her leaves; tolled bell whose song,
The ringer ceasing, lingers long.





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