Because the Library is closed we have not been able to pick up our set book to read during May so I took the decision to suggest we all take the time we have on our hands to choose a poetry book and each pick our favourite poem which I will include in the Reading Group Notes for May. Sadly, we lost two of our members this month and of course we were not able to attend the funerals but we did think of them on the day.
Robert Browning’s poem, Home Thoughts, from Abroad, written in 1845 when the poet was visiting Northern Italy, has been voted one of the UK’s most popular poems. The speaker is clearly longing for England (which for British colonial civil servants always remained home, no matter how long they were away), and imaginatively seeing and hearing the beauty of an English spring as unsurpassed by any other. And this is still relevant today despite the problems we are experiencing; the seasons know nothing of the virus and nature continues as normal and in fact, seems to be thriving.
Oh, to be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray’s edge—
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower
— Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!