Sunday, 1 April 2018

O, to be in England...

... Now that April's there.

So said Robert Browning. But given the weather forecast this Bank Holiday weekend you'd probably rather be anywhere BUT England. Still, despite what Eliot reckoned, April is often one of this country's best months, poetically at least.

Years ago, in the interval of concerts broadcast by BBC Radio 3, one of their announcers used to read a selection of poems chosen according to the season. They were delightful pieces, never too long, not too difficult and always beautifully, understatedly read by Robin Holmes. Timeless classics, definitively read. They really were small gems in the station's output.

But alas! no more. Because they no longer exist, except in brief recordings 'off-air' like the one below. This is the April offering. If only there were others somewhere and we could complete the set...

April's Charms, by W.H.Davies

When April scatters charms of primrose gold
Among the copper leaves in thickets old,
And singing skylarks from the meadows rise,
To twinkle like black stars in sunny skies;

When I can hear the small woodpecker ring
Time on a tree for all the birds that sing;
And hear the pleasant cuckoo, loud and long –
The simple bird that thinks two notes a song;

When I can hear the woodland brook, that could
Not drown a babe, with all his threatening mood;
Upon whose banks the violets make their home,
And let a few small strawberry blossoms come:

When I go forth on such a pleasant day,
One breath outdoors takes all my care away;
It goes like heavy smoke, when flames take hold
Of wood that’s green and fill a grate with gold.

April Showers, by John Clare

Delightful weather for all sorts of moods,
And most for him, grey morn and swarthy eve,
Found rambling up the little narrow lane
Where primrose banks amid the hazel woods
Peep most delightfully on passers-by.
While April's little clouds about the sky
Mottle and freak and under fancy lie 
Idling and ending travel for the day,
Til darker clouds sail up with cumbrous heave
south o-er the woods, and scare them all away.
Then comes the rain, pelting with pearly drops 
The primrose crowds, until they stoop,
And lie all fragranced to his mind
that musing, stops beneath the hawthorn, 
Til the shower is by.

Proud Songsters, by Thomas Hardy

The thrushes sing as the sun is going,
And the finches whistle in ones and pairs,
And as it gets dark loud nightingales
                    In bushes
Pipe, as they can when April wears,
As if all Time were theirs.
These are brand new birds of twelvemonths' growing,
Which a year ago, or less than twain,
No finches were, nor nightingales,
                    Nor thrushes,
But only particles of grain,
And earth, and air, and rain.

Lines Written in Early Spring, by William Wordsworth

I heard a thousand blended notes, 
While in a grove I sat reclined, 
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts 
Bring sad thoughts to the mind. 

To her fair works did Nature link 
The human soul that through me ran; 
And much it grieved my heart to think 
What man has made of man. 

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower, 
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths; 
And ’tis my faith that every flower 
Enjoys the air it breathes. 

The birds around me hopped and played, 
Their thoughts I cannot measure:— 
But the least motion which they made 
It seemed a thrill of pleasure. 

The budding twigs spread out their fan, 
To catch the breezy air; 
And I must think, do all I can, 
That there was pleasure there. 

If this belief from heaven be sent, 
If such be Nature’s holy plan, 
Have I not reason to lament 
What man has made of man?

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