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Reimagining Richard Jefferies

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Originally posted on March 28, 2019 @ 10:06 am

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 - in a sense a form of collaborative haibun.

February Days

[...] 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. The stubble, whitened by exposure to the weather, looks lighter in the sunshine [...]

february days
blackbirds sing, yet
indolence prevails

A Murmuration of Starling

[...] Viewed from a spot three or four fields away, the copse in the evening seems to be overhung by a long dark cloud like a bar of mist, while the sky is clear and no dew is yet risen. The resemblance to a cloud is so perfect that any one—not thinking of such things—may for the time be deceived, and wonder why a cloud should descend and rest over that particular spot. Suddenly, the two ends of the extended black bar contract, and the middle swoops down in the shape of an inverted cone, much resembling a waterspout, and in a few seconds the cloud pours itself into the trees. Another minute and a black streak shoots upwards, spreads like smoke, parts in two, and wheels round back into the firs again. On approaching it this apparent cloud is found to consist of thousands of starlings, the noise of whose calling to each other is indescribable—the country folk call it a “ charm,” meaning a noise made up of innumerable lesser sounds, each interfering with the other. The vastness of these flocks is hardly credible until seen; in winter the bare trees on which they alight become suddenly quite black. [...]

starling murmur
a babel of voices
from distant lands

A Wiltshire Meadow

[...] In the bunches of grass and by the gateways the germander speedwell looks like tiny specks of blue, stolen, like Prometheus’ fire, from the summer sky. When the mowing-grass is ripe the heads of sorrel are so thick and close that at a little distance the surface seems as if sunset were always shining red upon it. From the spotted orchis leaves in April to the honeysuckle-clover in June, and the rose and the honeysuckle itself, the meadow has changed in nothing that delights the eye [...]

chirping sparrow
lark, and pipit sing
an unchain’d melody

Soul Life

[…] 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 […]

halcyon days —
ancient mounds and hills
instinct with spirit

Time(less)

[...] 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 [...]

sunrise
clocks tick timelessly
a leaf falls

Oh - there is so much to be had from his writings ...

Related Posts:   Spring in the Country

Artist Credit

The featured image of the Sussex Downs is another by Paul Nash - this one fits well with Jeffries quotes many of which were originally written on the Downs and surrounding area of the high Weald.

Acknowledgement

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.

https://richardjefferies.wordpress.com/  

Sources

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

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Andrea Stephenson
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A very creative idea to collaborate with Jefferies; your haiku capture perfectly the feeling of these passages. I must thank you for introducing him to me. I’m currently reading The Life of the Fields and I’m already entranced by the way he writes. I’ve tried other early nature writers such as Gilbert White and haven’t been able to feel any connection to them, but Jefferies writing is definitely intriguing.

navasolanature
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This is a very inspiring post and will certainly look into the writing of Jeffries. A wonderful tribute to him with your own writing and love of nature.