Rural Rides (The Bird Scarer)

'Bridscaring' by Sir George Clausen

Beneath horse hair flax a wretched creature stirs,
off the well marched blood stained tracks
beyond the bawdy ale soaked house,
The Scarer wakes with field mouse.

The dust of bones that fell in France
was scattered here to bring advance
to farmers field and heavy plough,
The Dead are churned to feed us now.

A soldiers bastard boy who no Mother ever mourns
another blasted Cannon, another Empire Dawn,
his clapper claps to scare the birds
Each clattered beat drowns out his words.

Across these patchwork Jaded Hills
an echo gently whispers still,
of all the voices never heard
Drowned out by time to scare a bird.


© Wolfgar 2020

8 thoughts on “Rural Rides (The Bird Scarer)

  1. In the great scheme of things nothing much seems to change. There is talk of opportunity and endless possibility, that talk often rattles around the middle and upper echelons. These days it seems ticking boxes of conformity and repeating accepted knowledge in subservient deference is the way to get ahead, get some rank or letters before of after your name, that’s the way ahead. That sounds bitter and defeatist doesn’t it, but for some it is a truth. What is success?

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  2. Reminds me of Thomas Gray’s poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”.

    Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,
    Where heaves the turf in many a mould’ring heap,
    Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
    The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

    Gray relates the nameless dead to his own fate as he asks himself rhetorically what will happen to him:

    For thee, who mindful of th’ unhonour’d Dead
    Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
    If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
    Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,

    An interesting read David. All good wishes –
    John

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  3. Thanks John,

    I’ve been revisiting some of William Cobbetts “Rural Rides” I live in the area he was born in and spent some of his time writing about. The landscape is full of historic references (like any I suspect) some natural and some man-made. Soldiers used to march through this landscape to and from Portsmouth and the South Coast. It was a main route back to London after The Battle of Waterloo, we have Pubs and places named after that era. I was imagining the human traffic and behaviour that would have passed this way with all it’s consequences for the future. The fact that human remains were purchased by agricultural companies after battles such as Waterloo I find astounding. There are records of huge shipments of bones coming into Hull and being processed as fertiliser for English farms all over the country, talk about spreading ashes and homecomings. Also I have been dipping into a little Dickens again (hard work) with his images of poverty and lack of opportunity, those reflections made me wonder about the hopeless poor in that age and how so many of them never had any hope, how their voices were never heard even if they did have something of value to say they were drowned out by menial work and grim circumstances.

    Thanks for stopping by, hope all is well with you.

    David.

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  4. Your initial comment here encapsulates a bitter truth which once faced brings some relief from the scattering of hopeful energy, or rather refocuses it. It’s amazing how the coronavirus initially seemed to bring a rallying of worthwhile aid, which stands out now like a flame that can only die down to a smoulder. The realities of life which you have experienced in bucketfuls tell a truth of their own. Now the poem:
    There’s a richness to the text that takes us back in time and reminds us of whole swathes of the past. Along with this I imagine animal traps and the hunter’s moon, both of which inspired me to write. Another detail is the lowering of pigeons down chimneys to shake free layers of soot. The idea of bones being used for fertilizer has a sort of concentration camp flavour but economically viable, which makes sense. This is a fine poem that is a distillation of your special skills to bring a light touch to serious subjects and offer us a reflective glimpse back. I love the rhyming sense that satisfies as it rolls out.

    Ray

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  5. Thanks Ray,

    That snippet about pigeons in chimneys is fascinating, I hope these things don’t get lost with the passage of time. I suppose it is for us to keep it alive. Poetry, or should I say people are always seeking to use words in fresh new ways applying our experiences through words that grab attention, it seems we largely look forward or to the present for our inspiration whereas I think the lessons we need are mostly in the past.

    Thanks for the encouragement and compliments Ray.

    David

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  6. I have read “Rural Rides” in its entirity twice and dipped into passages much more frequently, I know my favourite passages so tend to fall on them when the mood takes me. Cobbett isn’t always easy to read as he tends to meander, a little like his rides do. He is prone to a kind of pomposity exhibited among self made men (I am familiar with that…although would not describe myself as made, either by self or heritage) I have taken note more consciously whilst revisiting Cobbett this time that he frequently dismisses “Jews” as he directly refers to them collectively.. his tone is distinctly unpleasant and anti-semetic. It struck me more obviously than before that his attitude was born from one of blaming their perceived business practices for the poverty of the working class man…he quotes this repeatedly in the initial chapters of the book. Cobbett was and is regarded as a defender of the working classes and a man of considerable social conscience (although he was inconsistent in his views towards the abolition of the slave trade) he feared that England would be lessened in economic prowess with abolition…although ultimately he did vote in favour of it) So I find myself wondering if the anti- semitism recently seen in some aspects of the left is a direct descentent of this same kind of thinking, I believe it is. Reading him again really highlights the deep rooted nature of prejudice and how it echoes for centuries and persists. Voices like his are important as they perfectly display how historic figures can benefit our society now even having had repugnant opinions and beliefs during their lifetime..I think that is a useful lesson to consider. We can cherry pick historic minds and learn greatly from them and indeed see exactly how our own prejudices may have been formed.

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  7. Masterful poem David. Written with such confidence. Every word, every word length, perfect. I think of Farnham in terms of SUVs and commuter trains to London. But of course being near Aldershot and Civil War locations, it has a bloody history, It has a history of poverty, callousness, too. You’re right to wake me up to that. The bad old days. The bad present days come to think of it…..

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  8. Thank you John very kind of you.

    You are right, whenever I go to Farnham I see the evidence of affluence. Often I sense an attitude in sections of the community which I find repellent, an outward display of privilege that mostly doesn’t feel earned or legitimate. As you say though Farnham’s proximity to the comparatively run down areas of Aldershot and Farnborough highlights still how communities are so obviously divided by barriers which are hard to break free from, even after the passing of so much time.

    David.

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