The Land I knew

Verse and painting H. G Russell

Southfalls Road Beach c1948

The marshland fields, the meadows wide
Creek veined saltings and grassy wall
The Foreshore flats, washed by the tide
Were playground of my stripling years

The soaring lark, whose song came down
To mingle, yet sound clear
With mew of lapwing and the pipe
Of redshanks urgent call
Were music I had yet to learn
As time attuned my ear

The tumbled rocks and beach of shell
The briny scent that rose
The tidal banks, sea heather crowned
A garden clean sea washed

The singing wires by the road
That stretched to distant view
Behedged and ditched to keep in bound
Across that dyke held land

The breeze that laid the grass in waves
Of lush and undulating green
Or creaked and whispered in the reeds
Each served to cast a spell

The village set around the pump
Which stood neath reed thatched bonnet
With church and school of weatherboard
And stores, where one could buy
A pair of boots or loaf of bread
Some paraffin or cheese
A skein of wool and writing pads
Or tea and reels of thread

Tall elms stood guard, where ancient farms
Rose from the level fields
And men of rustic speech
Made fine with plough, the silted clay
To furnish harvest yields

The coast guard house with tall white mast
Where want and watch has kept
On craft that plied great ships and small
And all who on the tideway passed

When nightfall came the chimneyed lamps
Gave forth a friendly light
And save the sounds of wind and tide
Or maybe restless cattle
The lonely sound of lighthouse bell
Or anchor chain a-rattle
Naught else disturbed the night

Each season had a different voice
To mark the time of year
The roaring, awesome winter gales
That filled the air with sound

The grassy sighing of the spring
Bemixed with lambs a-bleat
The calls of field and hedgerow life
And birds upon the wing

High summer dry and somnulent
Gave forth in measure full
Grasshopper song a blended tune
Of industry and lazy warm content

Subdued, the tones of autumn
Came from the resting fields
Or from the misty water shroud
Whence came the bells and siren calls
A passing craft made cautious way
Bound to or from the sea

In waggonette or horse drawn brake
The miles to school were light
With parcelled food to meet the need
Of daylong appetite

But home on foot as evening came
Although the hours seemed long
Gave spur to youthful energies
And made the weak limbed strong

Short cutting from the banked up road
To save an odd half mile
Leaping ditches, walking planks
Dodging cattle on the banks
Or climbing over a stile

The time passed and so I grew
With riches that were free
To know wide skies sweet cleansing rain
The warmth of sun on the pleasant plain
Where green fields spread to utmost sight
This was the land I knew.

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