August, by Edward Thomas

Still no sign of a permanent replacement for Helen Hunt Jackson, but, to welcome the new month, here is some prose from a poet.  This is from an essay ‘August’, by Edward Thomas.  It was originally published in the volume ‘The Heart of England’ in 1906. 

“I have found only two satisfying places in the world in August – the Bodleian Library and a little reedy, willowy pond, where you may enjoy the month perfectly, sitting and being friendly with moorhen and kingfisher and snake, except in the slowly recurring intervals where you catch a tench and cast only mildly envious eyes upon its cool, olive sides.  Through the willows I see the hot air quiver in crystal ripples like the points of swords, and sometimes I see a crimson cyclist on a gate.  Thus is “fantastic summer’s heat” divine.  For in August it is right to be cool, and at the same time to enjoy the sight and perfume of heat out of doors.  In June and July the frosts and east winds of May are so near in memory that they give a satisfaction to the sensation of heat.  In September frosts and east winds return.  August, in short, is the month of Nature’s perfect poise, and I should like to see it represented in painting by a Junonian woman, immobile, passionless, and happy in a cool-leaved wood, and looking neither forward not backward, but within.

… here, more than anywhere else, the things that are seen are the least important.  For they are but the fragments of the things that are embroidered on the hem of a great garment, which gathers the clouds and mountains in its folds; and in the hair of the wearer hang the stars, braided and whorled in patterns too intricate for our eyes.  The Junonian woman is a little ivory image of the figure which I think of my the pool.  She is older than the pool and the craggy oak at its edge, as old as the stars.  But to-day she has taken upon herself the likeness of one who is a girl for lightness and joy, a woman for wisdom, a goddess for calm.  Last month she seemed to laugh and dance.  Next month she will seem to have grey in her hair.  To-day she is perfect.” 

Until recently, if I’d fancied sitting by a little reedy, willowy pool I could have made my way down to this one, off the Brampton Valley Way –

Now it’s been fenced off and turned into a private fishing pond.  A little further down, the entrance to a pleasant semi-circular walk alongside the brook (that has featured on this blog before) has been closed off with razor wire.

A pity.


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