Friday, 20 April 2012

I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to post a poem by local poet, Copland Smith. Copland, like so many other people in Chorlton, values our Meadows and often gains inspiration for his poetry there. I suspect that the recent intrusion of the Metrolink tram system into our precious green space, and the ominous precedent that it sets for further destruction, may have prompted the poem below.

after John Clare

There once were gardens, like the one I had,

Where weeds and brambles scrambled, foxes slept,

And blackbird fought with dunnock over bread,

And foxglove grew and Johnswort. Foxes pupped

In wilderness that I so roughly kept,

As sparrows filled the hawthorn with their cries.

Now there is lawn, that nothing may corrupt.

Now all is silence as the birdsong dies,

Where once were hedgerows full of butterflies.

There once were wren and redbreast by the lane,

But motorways were widened. All that’s gone.

They’re laying tracks to carry city trains;

Where once was song, their tuneless engines drone.

And tarmac spreads where grass and sedge were growing;

Out of once rich meadows, buildings rise.

Once, the larks were singing, lapwing dancing.

Now all is silence as the birdsong dies,

Where once were hedgerows full of butterflies.

Copland Smith, 2012

 I note that Copland cites John Clare as an influence on this poem. He tells me that he has actually borrowed one of Clare's rhyming schemes for its composition.

John Clare (1793 - 1864) was born the son of a farm labourer. His home village of Helpston is just a few miles north of Peterborough  (actually, my home town). He was a prolific and inspired poet. As a young man he experienced a relatively brief period of fame before the London literary set dropped him and he sank into obscurity - and, eventually, into madness. Nevertheless, his poetry has endured. Because so much of his verse was inspired by nature and the natural world - particularly the countryside around Helpston - it would not be too inaccurate to describe him as "the Patron Saint" of the English countryside. During his lifetime he had to endure watching vast tracts of that countryside being destroyed by the enclosure movement and his grief and rage at that desecration forms a dark undercurrent in many of his poems.

Sadly, in the early 21st century, we still have to watch treasured places being destroyed in the name of 'progress'.

Perhaps it's time we woke up to the fact that if it's not truly sustainable, it's not progressive! 

Dave Bishop, April 2012

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