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Friday, November 13, 2009

THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS




They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate.
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few)
You will hear the beat of a horse's feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods….
But there is no road through the woods

(A gentle autumn afternoon's potter on my bicycle led me down a country lane. The hedgerows closed in either side. The lane became a farm track. The track ended at a derelict, overgrown five-bar gate. I pushed through and found myself on a forgotten, ancient road that led down through the woods, emerging onto the levels of Romney Marsh. Kipling's words slid into my meditative mind as my tyres rode over the soft leaf litter, the crack of the occasional broken twig almost an intruder on my musings.)

12 comments:

Doohickie said...

When I was in Maidstone I went to a little pub called the Yew Tree. I walked there from the hotel so I didn't have to worry so much about how much I drank. On one trip I decided to take a footpath through the woods. It divided, then divided again, and before I knew it there was no footpath at all. I was starting to feel like the guy in the movie An American Werewolf in London and the sounds of the woods were rather unsettling.

Finally I came out in someone's back yard. I made my way out to the street, then followed it back to the main road, no more than a hundred yards from where I'd started. What a perfectly good waist of an hour!

;- )

Avus said...

Doohickie:
The Yew Tree, Maidstone. I knew it well in the old days when I lived there. It was the occasional watering hole for our local motorcyclist training scheme of which I was chief instructor. Happy days!

ArtPropelled said...

... the misty solitudes.... sounds like my walk on the beach.

Granny J said...

Lovely poem, that, though in the dry country, old roads leave their marks on the land for a much longer time than in fertile areas.

Barrett Bonden said...

Your gentler reminiscence took me back to the winter I spent covering cyclocross for Cycling and Mopeds in freezing temperatures at various obscure Home Counties locations. The name of Don Stone comes to mind - he won 'em all and interviewing him afterwards got harder and harder. I simply ran out of questions. In those days the mud-pluggers rode bikes that were much closer to road-racing bikes than the specialised mounts of today. I'd say happy days, but I'd be lying. Getting to these clumps of woodland on Sunday mornings required me to ride a bike (I was, after all, the moped specialist) and I recall sliding off on some ice and splitting the knee of my suit trousers. But why was I wearing a suit anyway? Memory draws a veil...

herhimnbryn said...

Sigh...

Isabelle said...

That is such a good poem. So evocative.

I can't comment on your daughter's blogs tonight - somehow it's not working. Can you tell her congratulations and happy birthday from me (oh, and ask her how she'd feel if her lovely dog decided to leave home and set up on his own...?!)

Avus said...

BB:
I have a mental image of this be-suited young man, with bicycle (or separated from it) on a muddy woodland track. Presumably the occasion also called for a collar and tie? Definitely the outfit for reporting on cyclocross, my dear.
I never tried it (cyclocross) it seemed to me that one was either running up muddy hills with bike on shoulder, or falling down muddy hills with bike on top! My teenage sport was cross country running - the bicycle seemed superfluous.

Isabelle:
I see you have now made contact with my daughter.

HHnB:
I guess your woods are just as enjoyable in their way....at 5.30am

Anonymous said...

Hi, Avus-

Is that your photograph?

squrilleus

Avus said...

squrilleus:
Hi Sharon - to which photo do you refer? If the one on this post then, yes, it is mine. I decided on a black and white in homage to that great landscape photographer, James Ravilious, whose stuff I have recently been perusing.

Lucy said...

Always brings a shiver, that one!

Helen said...

I really enjoyed reading this. Thankyou.