Week 274: On Wenlock Edge, by A.E.Housman

I walked along Wenlock Edge once. Still plenty of trees to be seen, but this was on a quiet evening of silver sun, far removed from Housman’s inner and outer weather. I suppose that Housman’s landscapes, compared with, say, those of Edward Thomas, may lack solidity and particularity, but for me they make up for it, as in this poem, with a luminous, time-layered, mythical quality.

On Wenlock Edge

On Wenlock Edge the wood’s in trouble;
His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
And thick on Severn snow the leaves.

‘Twould blow like this through holt and hanger
When Uricon the city stood:
‘Tis the old wind in the old anger,
But then it threshed another wood.

Then, ’twas before my time, the Roman
At yonder heaving hill would stare:
The blood that warms an English yeoman,
The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.

There, like the wind through woods in riot,
Through him the gale of life blew high;
The tree of man was never quiet:
Then ’twas the Roman, now ’tis I.

The gale, it plies the saplings double,
It blows so hard, ’twill soon be gone:
To-day the Roman and his trouble
Are ashes under Uricon.

A.E.Housman

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