Cow Parsley

This year there is a
Splendid crop of cow parsley
In St Peter’s Valley.
I know you think it funny
That I should love this
Tall ungainly flower which
Grows head and leafy shoulders
Over scarlet campion
And ragged robin,
But its clouds of faded white
Are the saving grace
Of many a marshy field.

1968

To Samuel Palmer

Now breaks the snowy may upon the hedge
And Spring the orchard fills with waves of white.
High sails the full-frown moon across the skies
And floods the dreaming sheepfolds with its light.
The early shepherd plays upon his pipe
And calls the distant dawn across the night.

In Shoreham’s fields the mystic grain still grows,
The wheatsheaves ripen in the August sun,
The spirit whispers in the sacred groves
Of lives well ordered and of work well done.
In valleys thick with corn dead Virgil lives
And through your visions speaks to everyone.

October 1980

On the dunes today

I wish you had been
With me on the dunes today.
We would have rested
Among the white moss roses,
And watched the grasses flow
Before the warm wind
Like fields of ancient corn.
The sea hung misty
Between sky and blowing sand
And the larks were still.

12 June 1968

Nightwatch

I love your warmth beside me as I lie
Cocooned in night, the small hours ebbing by,
Leaving me stranded like an errant whale,
High on a wide sandbank of sleeplessness,
A prey to fancies and imaginings.

No devils now, no banshee’s warning cries,
No terrors from a nun-conditioned childhood
Invade my thoughts and force their company,
But spirits of foreboding and of doubt,
Of melancholy and absurdity,
Hobgoblins all of chronic middle age!

You are my talisman against this night,
I stroke your thigh and put them all to flight!

20 January 1990

For Mother

When evening light the garden fills
And shadows fall across the lawn
Beneath the oak,
Down the long path
With trug of windfalls
And a bunch of mint,
I see you coming,
Smiling, to greet us.

March 1993

Mummy trimmed my hair today

Mummy trimmed my hair today
And cut my baby curls away,
But from the pile she rescued one
Which shone pale golden like the sun.

1940 – 1945

Smith.je:

For Liberation day 2015. 70 years on.

Originally posted on I have a homing instinct for the stars:

Whenever I split logs, my boyhood years
Come rushing back, spring tide in fullest flood.
The acid smells of chestnut, birch and oak
Rebuild the wood stores at our end of town
And recreate the tar and sawdust fuel,
The heatless swirls of grey-green blinding smoke,
Incense to gods of darkness and of war.
At night we strove to see and wept to read
And when the morning came, we smelt of smoke.

Our books were our escape! Dumaresq Street
Was Ali Baba’s cave as, once each week,
We climbed the spiral staircase after school
In search of tales from Russia, India,
From Persia and the Golden Orient;
Row upon row of heavy leather books,
So many magic carpets for our flight
From shores of hunger and of hopelessness.

But life was more than reading. Summer days
Stretched endlessly with double summertime,
Each waking hour well filled with jobs to…

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