As on the highway’s quiet edge

This Is a nice descriptive landscape poem from Frances Cornford, dealing with a bucolic country scene in Norfolk, near the coast. This is a beautiful part of England, probably under-appreciated, but still relatively unspoilt. Indeed it is a sort of vision of England, rather in the tradition of Gray’s Elegy – a humble country labourer plies his trade amid a country scene which you could imagine unchanged for hundreds of years.

The Coast: Norfolk

As on the highway’s quiet edge
He mows the grass beside the hedge,
The old man has for company
The distant, grey, salt-smelling sea,
A poppied field, a cow and calf,
The finches on the telegraph.
Across his faded back a hone,
He slowly, slowly scythes alone
In silence of the wind-soft air,
With ladies’ bedstraw everywhere,
With whitened corn, and tarry poles,
And far-off gulls like risen souls.

Frances Darwin Cornford

From <;

Nothing much happens in this poem. Indeed it could just as well be a painting, the impact would be very similar. Here, reading the words creates the image in our minds – an old man using a scythe to cut the grass near a field of poppies bordered by the hedge, and the sea not far away. There are birds – finches and gulls, the land and the sea are both at hand. The scene is calm and timeless, life is slow here.

And there is some formal consistency as well, for those that care to look for it – rhyming couplets, 8 syllables to a line. The simplicity of the subject masks well the craft of the poet – as it should, sometimes.

The Poetry Dude


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