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Distant Hills - Reimagining Richard Jefferies (Part 1)
Walking in the footsteps of Richard Jefferies ... “I was not more than eighteen when an inner and esoteric meaning began to come to me from all the visible universe, and indefinable aspirations filled me. I found them in the grass fields, under the trees, on the hill-tops, at sunrise, and in the night. There was a deeper meaning everywhere. The sun burned with it, the broad front of morning beamed with it; a deep feeling entered me while gazing at the sky in the azure noon, and in the star-lit evening —' The Story of my Heart’.”
I was around the same age when I had similar feelings ... his autobiographical writings in 'The Story of my Heart’ or ‘Soul Life’ as he originally called it struck a chord deep within me providing solace and hope - I was not alone ... he has been my constant companion, and mentor, ever since; there is always one of his books on the coffee table. His writings as fresh today as they were in the 1800’s. They are perhaps the ‘raison detre’ for my blog.
Here is my take - my heartfelt tribute to Richard Jefferies - through my exploration of Japanese prose poems of haibun and haiku; a reimagining of his writing - a whispery and insightful postscript to his prose.
[...] It is the February summer that comes, and lasts a week or so between the January frosts and the east winds that rush through the thorns. Some little green is even now visible along the mound where seed-leaves are springing up. The sun is warm, and the still air genial, the sky only dotted with a few white clouds. Wood-pigeons are busy in the elms, where the ivy is thick with ripe berries. There is a feeling of spring and of growth; in a day or two we shall find violets; and listen, how sweetly the larks are singing! Some chase each other, and then hover fluttering above the hedge. [...]
tease ... the blackbird
Life of the Fields 1899
[…] There were grass-grown tumuli on the hills to which of old I used to walk, sit down at the foot of one of them, and think. Some warrior had been interred there in the ante-historic times. The sun of the summer morning shone on the dome of sward, and the air came softly up from the wheat below, the tips of the grasses swayed as it passed sighing faintly, it ceased, and the bees hummed by to the thyme and heathbells. I became absorbed in the glory of the day, the sunshine, the sweet air, the yellowing corn turning from its sappy green to summer’s noon of gold, the lark’s song like a waterfall in the sky. I felt at that moment that I was like the spirit of the man whose body was interred in the tumulus; I could understand and feel his existence the same as my own. He was as real to me two thousand years after interment as those I had seen in the body. The abstract personality of the dead seemed as existent as thought. As my thought could slip back the twenty centuries in a moment to the forest-days when he hurled the spear, or shot with the bow, hunting the deer, and could return again as swiftly to this moment, so his spirit could endure from then till now, and the time was nothing […]
grasses swayover ancient mounds - clash of steel
The Story of My Heart 1883
Savernake (Marlborough) Forest
[...] A little farther and the ground declines; through the tall fern we come upon a valley. But the soft warm sunshine, the stillness, the solitude, have induced an irresistible idleness. Let us lie down upon the fern, on the edge of the green vale, and gaze up at the slow clouds as they drift across the blue vault. The subtle influence of Nature penetrates every limb and every vein, fills the soul with a perfect contentment, an absence of all wish except to lie there, half in sunshine, half in shade, for ever in a Nirvana of indifference and to all but the exquisite delight of simply living. The wind in the tree-tops overhead sighs in soft music, and ever and anon a leaf falls with a slight rustle to mark time. The clouds go by in rhythmic motion, the ferns whisper verses in the ear, the beams of the wondrous sun in endless song [...]
sunrise shadows lengthen a leaf falls
The Hills and the Vale 1909.Spirit Hills
[...] The blue hill line arouses a perception of a current of thought which lies for the most part unrecognized within – an unconscious thought. By looking at this blue hill line this dormant power within the mind becomes partly visible; the heart wakes up to it. [...] [...] From the blue hill lines, from the dark copses on the ridges, the shadows in the combes, from the apple-sweet wind and rising grasses, from the leaf issuing out of the bud to question the sun—there comes from all of these an influence which forces the heart to lift itself in earnest and purest desire. The soul knows itself, and would live its own life. [...]
between heaven n earth
‘On the Downs’ (included in Edward Thomas’ 1909 collection The Hills and the Vale). Thanks to Simon Coleman
Oh - there is so much to be had from his writings ...
Wood on the Downs , 1929 Paul Nash(1889 - 1946) - oil on canvas
Paul Nash studied art at the Slade School in London amongst a distinguished class of students that included Stanley Spencer and Edward Wadsworth. During the 1930s he was responsible for establishing an artistic group called 'Unit One' which represented the avant-garde in British art. Under the influence of Cubism and Surrealism, he developed an intensely personal vision of the natural world.
This landscape is Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire, which Nash first visited with his brother and fellow artist, John Nash. Some of the stylisation and mannerisms of Surrealism are evident here, in the distinctive grouping of trees depicted on a monumental scale. Nash developed a particular interest in trees. He wrote; 'I sincerely love and worship trees and know that they are people.'
I've drawn extensively on the resources of the Richard Jefferies Society in particular the Blog managed by Dr Rebecca Welshman - itself a constant source of inspiration.
I have used the following books in my research ...
Round About a Great Estate & Red Deer - Edited by C Henry Warren 1948
The Story of My Heart - Richard Jefferies 1979
Richard Jefferies A Study - H S Salt 1894
Jefferies’ Countryside- Edited Samuel J. Looker 1944
Richard Jefferies and his Countryside - Reginald Arkell 1933