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Painting in Words


Painting in Words - I was once asked if I wrote from experience or from imagination - I replied both: my writing is inspired by nature, art, and memories of real events, times and places, coloured by imagination - vivid pictures painted in words - sometimes somewhat hesitantly expressed as ekphrastic prose, poems or as haiku ...

piano practice 
outside my window
goldfinch sing

I cannot play but I do enjoy watching and listening to the goldfinch in the garden.

[...] I walk from window - to window, as birds fly quickly from one feeder to another, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Siskin and a pair of Goldfinch - to see and hear them is a joy and delight - beautiful birds [...]


Winter Walks

These next pieces are about winter walks in the country where senses are heightened by the covering of snow ...

[...] A fresh fall of snow overnight. I walk in a winter landscape: the green fields mantled white; the blackish branches of willow and ash, edged white, starkly outlined, against the morning light; mirrored in the dark brown-grey of the brook; the distant woods a purple haze against the blue-grey snow clouds above. My footsteps the only sound. I stop [...]

drifting snow  
shattering the silence
a wren sings

[...] At the edge of the wood early catkins - lambs tails - tremble and dance, sprinkling yellow gold-dust over the snowy branches. A small party of Long Tailed Tit tinkle through the delicate filigree of branches outlined against the early morning winter-spring sky [...]

 bumbarrel roving through the hedge travellers joy


In Pursuit of Spring

These next few were inspired by the poems and writings of Edward Thomas (Edward Thomas, 1878 - 1917) - especially his book ‘The Pursuit of Spring’.

Winter is not yet over but spring is just round the corner - beautifully described in his short poem - ‘Thaw’ - in which he describes the passing of winter.

Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flowers of grass,
What we below could not see, Winter pass.

And here is my take on his poem ...

 sunny days tease  the blackbird into song

[...]. So don’t put his books away yet but leave them close to hand for reading again on those bright sunny days in February, which tease and tempt us out, but whose bitter winds send us scurrying back indoors; but the birds know! [...]

There was a lake I used to visit, in winter and spring, not far from my home in Wiltshire, where I spent many hours as a teenager watching ducks. There was an island church at one end of the lake ...

still waters
a fish jumps ... through
my reflection

And from my bedroom window, at dimpsey, I would sometimes look out at the twinkling of distant cottage lights on the downs, as they appeared one by one, like yellow stars, fallen from the violet, not-quite-black sky ...

lights twinkle
in darkening sky
hints of jasmine

Edward Thomas passed close by in his travels ...

And this one inspired by watching the swallows flitting in between the sheep and cows one muggy morning in late spring - which idly brought to mind the poem by WH Davies - ‘Leisure’ - which many of us learnt at school ... “What is this life if, full of care ...”

swallow flutter
among the cows -
rain stops play

Country weather lore has it that swallow flying low over the fields portend rain. Not much hope then for the afternoons cricket match!


Childhood Memories

I’ve always loved and listened to music and like birdsong I find a song or musical piece will evoke memories of the time and place when first heard.

Recently voted Britain's favourite piece of classical music - The Lark Ascending composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams's in 1914, on the eve of the outbreak of World War I, and first premiered in Bristol in 1921 - is just such a piece.

I think I first heard this in the early ‘50s, on the old Bakelite Bush radio we had next to my Dads armchair.

Vaughan Williams was inspired by by the poem of the same name by the Victorian Poet, George Meredith.

Here is my take ...

distant hills
across the vale
skylark sing

I rediscovered the delight and innocence of childhood while reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’ to my children when they were still very young. From make-believe to climbing trees, bedtime stories to morning play and favourite cousins to beloved mothers. A very special collection indeed.

[...] The smell of new-mown meadow hay - the gentle clatter of an old ‘Little Grey Fergie’ working in the distance - daisy chains, dandelion clocks and buttercup chins - the chime of the Church clock on the quarter hour from ‘tother side of the village green [...]

lazy afternoon 
in buttercup meadows
chasing dreams

There was a small pond in the middle of a field full of dandelions daisies and buttercups, a stones throw from home in Timsbury, near Bath, in which we used to play - the fields not the pond; ‘tho I do remember always going home rather wet and muddy. Timeless, cherished memories - those precious days of childhood ...


Soul Life

Walks by streams in meadows and woods on rolling hills and downs following in the footsteps of Richard Jefferies ... some meditative pieces inspired by his autobiography ‘The Story of my Heart’ or ‘Soul Life’ as he originally called it ...

I lie upon the hills ....

The downs he knew in his youth were also heavily marked by the relics of much earlier civilizations.  Tumuli, stone circles, hill forts and ancient trackways suggested a network of forgotten knowledge, of subtle connections between the landscape and the world of the dead – the ancestors.  Jefferies once described the downs as being ‘alive with the dead’ and, by the side of a tumulus, he imagines the vigorous life once enjoyed by the warrior interred there (‘The Story of My Heart’, chapter 3).   All this is evidence that he perceived the links between life, death and landscape.

grasses sway
over ancient mounds
warriors dream

[...] Time means nothing – the sun moves across the sky – still I’m lying here in the grass at one with the mead – the sun and sky. I live through the trees, the grass; the earth itself bears me up ... The hours when the mind is absorbed by beauty are the only hours when we really live, so that the longer we can stay among these things so much the more is snatched from inevitable Time ... The clock should be read by the sunshine, not the sun timed by the clock. The latter is indeed impossible, for though all the clocks in the world should declare the hour of dawn to be midnight, the sun will presently rise just the same [...]

 in between then and now a moment

And from ‘Hours of Spring’:

“…the beautiful clouds that go over, with the sweet rush of rain and burst of sun glory among the leafy trees.”

 sunshine after rain the forest stretches 

[...] Savernake was originally wood-pasture grazed with livestock – a mosaic of woodland, coppice, common land, rolling downland, and small, hidden farms. One of the mysterious and magical places of Wiltshire – an enchanted place; ethereal in its liquid greenness and shady places under the ancient trees; multicoloured sunbeams filtering through the woodland glades, where butterflies and faeries dance; the rides and grand avenues heavenly lit by the rising sun - a woodland cathedral [...]


Artists Credit

The featured image is of Goldfinch on Teasel (1978) from an original painting by Basil Ede. Published by Royles. A short biography can be found here:    
Artists Inspired by Nature – Basil Ede
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Josie Holford
December 16, 2020 12:03 pm

What a fantastically rich and beautiful post. So many delights! Thank you. And what a gorgeous painting of goldfinches! And now I have to go back and listen and read again. (Edward Thomas knew Wiltshire well!)

December 16, 2020 12:39 pm

Fantastic post, Clive! I will read it again as there is so much to take in! Maybe even comment again! 😊

Reply to  Clive Bennett
December 18, 2020 8:13 am

Easily done! Have a good weekend!

December 16, 2020 2:40 pm

These haiku and prose are gems that can be read again and again.

December 17, 2020 12:13 am

Yes, wonderful, both imagination and detailed observation and experience. I love the way the goldfinches and piano merge in your scene too. Carefully balanced images of beauty.

December 18, 2020 8:34 pm

I do enjoy your word pictures and to “hear” your condensed haikus Clive and to slow down time with you. I was reared also on A Child’s Garden of Verses.

Andrea Stephenson
December 26, 2020 8:33 pm

Thanks for sharing your inspirations with us Clive, there is so much inspiration out there if we look for it. I love the way you’ve then illustrated your inspirations with wonderful poems and writings that came from it.