Stump Watch : Coda

A resurrection of sorts for Easter.  Not too far away from the remains of The Stump the authorities have planted a sapling horse chestnut.  I wish it well, although the last time they tried this it was swiftly snapped in half by vandals.  I don’t think I shall be reporting regularly on its progress, although it might feature occasionally.

Stump Watch Coda Easter 2013

For anyone curious as to how The Stump might have developed, if left to its own devices, here is a wild horse chestnut of a similar age to the sapling, a short walk along the Brampton Valley Way, as approached from Little Bowden.  At this early stage in its development there are several branches that have the potential to develop into a trunk.  In time, all but one will die away or be destroyed and all the strength of the tree will be concentrated in the surviving branch.


I Watched A Blackbird : Thomas Hardy

What to do for Easter?  I had some rather attractive pictures of  The Man of Sorrows from my brief holiday in Spain, but these are presumably still somewhere at Wantage Road with my lost camera.  I tried to Share a video of  Easter Parade, by the Blue Nile, but it didn’t want to be shared.  I found a couple of interesting poems by A.H. Clough and A.E. Houseman, but these were discouraging and frankly atheistical.  So here is an Easter poem of a sort, by Thomas Hardy.  Back to nests again, I’m afraid.


 ‘I Watched A Blackbird” 


I watched a blackbird on a budding sycamore

One Easter Day, when sap was stirring twigs to the core;

I saw his tongue, and crocus-coloured bill

Parting and closing as he turned his trill;

Then he flew down, seized on a stem of hay,

And upped to where his building scheme was under way,

As if so sure a nest were never shaped on spray.


(Wouldn’t you know it?  I did try to take a picture of a blackbird to accompany this with my new, improved, replacement camera, but – although they are everywhere to be heard-  not one is anywhere to be seen.  But I’m sure you have probably seen one before.) 

A song for Easter Sunday : Patti Smith

From the album Easter, the song Easter.  The lyrics were inspired by Rimbaud‘s first communion, Easter Sunday 1866 – Frederick was a  brother, Vitalie and Isabelle  his sisters.  When the album was first released (1978) it came with a sleeve insert featuring the following photograph of Rimbaud at his first communion (which I cut out and stuck on my wall, because, I’m afraid, that’s the kind of teenager I was).   

Rimbaud at his first communion

 And the song …

A photograph for Easter


“And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness all over the earth until the ninth hour.  And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.  And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit; and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” – Luke 23.44-46.

Actually St. Hugh, Market Harborough (Little Bowden?) on Friday.

– Do you know what, Old Top?  If the bottom ever drops out of the blogging racket, you’ve got a great future designing record sleeves for third-rate goth bands. – (Reader’s voice).

Why thank you.

Canticle for Good Friday : Geoffrey Hill


Bouguereau : Pieta

There are surprisingly few poems in English about Good Friday.  The resurrection as an abstraction  is easy enough to assimilate to the way in which we generally think of Easter – the return of life to the earth, as popularly represented by bunnies, eggs and chicks.  The physical event of the human sacrifice required to bring about this resurrection is harder to come to terms with.  I doubt that the crucifixion has ever – since the reformation at any rate – entered the popular consciousness of the English in the way that it has in Catholic countries.  We prefer our crucifixes to be restrained, discreet and bloodless:  they rarely intrude into our homes. 

Here, though, is a poem for Good Friday, by Geoffrey HillHill is at the same time profoundly English – indeed claggily Mercian – and Latinate in his sensibility.  The poem is, I think (I could be wrong), told from the point of view of the Apostle “Doubting”  Thomas.



The cross staggered him.  At the cliff-top

Thomas, beneath its burden, stood

While the dulled wood

Spat on the stones each drop

Of deliberate blood.


A clamping, cold-figured day

Thomas (not transfigured) stamped, crouched,


Smelt vinegar and blood.  He

As yet unsearched, unscratched,


And suffered to remain

At such near distance

(A slight miracle might cleanse

His brain

Of all attachments, claw-roots of sense)


In unaccountable darkness moved away,

The strange flesh untouched, carion-sustenance

Of staunchest love, choicest defiance,

Creation’s issue congealing (and one woman’s).

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday today.  In many parishes the clergy offer to wash the feet of the congregation.  This must be a great boon to the pedicure industry, for what good Anglican would want to have their Vicar see their feet disfigured with gnarled toenails, chipped nail polish, bunions, corns or athlete’s foot?  I imagine the Clergy of England  have never seen such a delightful parade of  sweetly perfumed and well-buffed feet before.

Watch out, Vicar - I'm ticklish!

Other men’s flowers : the Lent Lily, by A.E. Housman

As usual at this time of year, your correspondent is enduring a vexatious time at work, and can only proffer another small bunch of other men’s flowers.  In this case the flowers are lent lilies (or daffodils) and the poet A.E. Housman. 

I always very much want to like Housman‘s poems and usually succeed when I read them individually.  Read too many of them at once and the consistency of feeling and style topples over into self parody (and Housman must have been as often parodied as any poet).  He seems to have discovered an attitude (I won’t say a pose) that he (oddly) found comfortable early in life – life is brief, love is fleeting, flowers die – and never seems to have made much effort, either in life or in his verse, to risk the confusion of emotional engagements that might have disturbed this equilibrium.  At least, in this one, it’s only the daffodils that die – in A Shropshire Lad the body count must rival The Terminator.

He was also (according to Frank Kermode*) a very fastidious bachelor, who refused to allow his neighbour Ludwig Wittgenstein to use his private lavatory – though whether this is significant in some way I can’t say.

If my lent lilies are planning to die on Easter Day, by the way, they’d better get a move on and bloom.


 The Lent Lily

by A.E. Housman


‘Tis spring; come out to ramble

The hilly brakes around,

For under thorn and bramble

About the hollow ground

The primroses are found.


And here’s the windflower chilly

With all the winds at play,

And there’s the Lenten lily

That has not long to stay

And dies on Easter day.


And since till girls go maying

You find the primose still,

And find the windflower playing

With every wind at will,

But not the daffodil,


Bring baskets now, and sally

Upon the spring’s array,

And bear from hill and valley

The daffodil away

That dies on Easter day.



Some Lent Lilies yesterday, not in my back yard

*Nothing for ever and ever