Thursday, August 25, 2005

Home to Gloucestershire

Though I was not born in Gloucestershire (like my brother) and though I no longer live there, for me going to Gloucestershire is going home. I love Oxford, have done ever since I first visited it to look at the old Polytechnic (now Oxford Brookes University), but Gloucestershire's hills are home to me because I spent so many years living there (from age 7 - 19 and then from age 22 - 33). So, going back there is definitely going home - and so I am off home for 5 days, to stay with my parents and brother over the long weekend (Monday is a public holiday here).

In anticipation of this visit, I'm currently listening to a Johnny Coppin album, The Gloucestershire Collection, which features the poems of various Gloucestershire poets set to music composed by Johnny. The album caught my attention because the opening song is 'In Flanders' by F W Harvey. Now my first specialisation (if you will) was the poetry of the First World War, so the song made a lot of sense to me. This is the poem:

In Flanders

I'm homesick for my hills again -
My hills again!
To see above the Severn plain,
Unscabbarded against the sky,
The blue high blade of Cotswold lie;
The giant clouds go royally
By jagged Malvern with a train
Of shadows. Where the land is low
Like a huge imprisoning O
I hear a heart that's sound and high,
I hear the heart within me cry:
"I'm homesick for my hills again -
My hills again!
Cotswold or Malvern, sun or rain!
My hills again!"

As you see, the poem is called 'In Flanders', but it's actually about the Gloucestershire countryside - which I know well. The album is full of similar pieces, full of love for the Gloucestershire & Cotswolds countryside, much of it written by poets long dead, who nevertheless manage to speak down the years to me in a very direct way. F W Harvey was a prisoner of war for 2 years during the First World War, but he managed to survive and lived until 1957, and continued to write poetry , mostly about his beloved Gloucestershire. Harvey's poems, like those of his friend and fellow poet, Ivor Gurney, are favourites of mine, and The Gloucestershire Collection CD is one that gets played whenever I'm missing my Gloucestershire hills - or, as now, in anticipation of a visit to them.

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