Friday, March 18, 2016

In Pursuit of  Spring, 2.

Chapter III    Guildford to Dunbridge, and a riff on clay pipes.


On the Hog's Back he sees gypsies:

'I liked the look of the gypsies camping... If they were not there in fact, they would have to be invented. They are at home there. See them at nightfall, with their caravans drawn up facing the wind, and the men by the half-door at the back smoking, while the hobbled horses are grazing and the children playing near.'

(I owned a 'vardo' like this for some years but moved to a terraced house so it went to a good home.)
On to Farnham for breakfast, and to see:
'A small inn labelled "Cobbett's Birthplace" in letters as big as are usually given to the name of a brewer.'.
No longer:
'The Jolly Farmer burnt down completely in the 1980's - with the post box outside all that remained. We celebrate its resilience by hanging it from one of our rebuilt walls! '.   Hhhhmn.

He travelled on westward to Willey Mill on the Wey, the Surrey/Hampshire border.
 


He had ridden  into Hampshire  where hops were grown then:'Many were the buildings related to hops, whose mellow brick work seemed to have been stained by a hundred harvests.'




In a remarkable passage Thomas describes a hunt, emphasising the scarlet riders and ending:
'Backwards and forwards galloped the riders before the right crossing of the railway was taken. The fox died in obscurity two miles away.'    I read restrained dislike,into that 'Backwards and forwards...'

After this the chapter diverts from topology into:-

 local surnames,
  a tale of two sisters , Martha and Mary, with the characteristics implied by those names,

and then into clay pipes. Edward Thomas always carried his 'clay' a simple workman's pipe, and he riffs at great length on their different shapes, thickness, thinness and suitability.
 







found in our roof.

 
 Surely he is laughing at himself  in his pages of discourse on these pipes, good and bad. He follows them with bemusement at the Other Man's obsession with weather vanes and 'stupor' from having to listen to Thomas.
He describes the perfect pipe:

'This perfect clay pipe came from a shop at Oxford. Everywhere else I have looked in vain for them. I have never seen any one else smoking them who had not got them from me.
Tastes differ, but in this matter I cannot believe that anyone capable of distinguishing one clay from another would deny this one's excellence.
The Other Man cared nothing for the matter. He awoke from the stupor to which he had been reduced by listening, and asked,-
"Did you see that weather-vane at Albury in the shape of a pheasant? or the fox-shape one by the ford at Butts green? ......'

The Oxford tobacconist on the High Street still exists:


Poem - Digging, the first poem written after Edward Thomas enlisted. He sweeps through aeons of time.


Digging


What matter makes my spade for tears or mirth,
Letting down two clay pipes into the earth?
The one I smoked, the other a soldier
Of Blenheim, Ramillies, and Malplaquet
Perhaps. The dead man's immortality
Lies represented lightly with my own,
A yard or two nearer the living air
Than bones of ancients who, amazed to see
Almighty God erect the mastodon,
Once laughed, or wept, in this same  light of day.
       


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