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British Values: And a Blackbird Sang

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Adlestrop, by Edward Thomas

 

Yes. I remember Adlestrop—

The name, because one afternoon

Of heat the express-train drew up there

Unwontedly. It was late June.

 

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.

No one left and no one came

On the bare platform. What I saw

Was Adlestrop—only the name

 

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,

And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,

No whit less still and lonely fair

Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

 

And for that minute a blackbird sang

Close by, and round him, mistier,

Farther and farther, all the birds

Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

 

And yes, I went there with Charlotte on the centenary  of the day the train made its unscheduled stop.

Charlotte looking summery

Charlotte looking summery

William Langley, the journalist expresses it beautifully: “Adlestrop, just 16 lines long, composed of simple words and observations, has been compared to the works of Elgar and Henry V’s speech before the battle of Agincourt. Its appeal is fiercely debated, but readers appear to find in it something incorporeally English, poignant and gripping.”

The station is long gone, but the sign hangs in the bus stop, and on the day of our visit there was a poetry gala in full swing. P.J. Kavanagh the poet was on the stage in the village hall and a lady in a spectacular royal blue hat was the master of ceremonies at the Friends of the Dymock Poets (Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, John Drinkwater, Robert Frost, Lascelles Abercrombie and Wilfred Gibson)  celebrating the anniversary. Edward Thomas died in 1917 on the first day of the Battle of Arras at the age of 37.

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P.J. Kavanagh the poet

a splendid array of cakes

a splendid array of cakes

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Lady in blue hat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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the village post office and more cakes!

 

 

 

 

Nothing has changed in Adlestrop, except the destruction of the branch railway line. Jane Austen liked to stay with friends in the Manor House and the mother of William Morris’s wife was born in the village. The houses are the prettiest examples of Cotswold domestic architecture,  turtle doves and bees lull one into a dreamlike and soporific state of otherworldly delight.

The enchantment lasts only  as long  as one’s sojourn. The village houses are owned by extremely wealthy people and out there is a world which  doesn’t know a blackbird from a thrush.

 

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