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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.
[...] 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 [...]
[...] 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 [...]
time is nothing here
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 [...]
in the meadow
lark and pipit sing
A Messiaen Symphony
[...] The sound of many birds singing comes from the hedge across the meadow;…finches and linnets, thrush and chiff-chaff, wren and whitethroat, and others farther away, whose louder notes only reach. The singing is so mixed and interwoven, and is made of so many notes, it seems as if it were the leaves singing—the countless leaves—as if they had voices [...]
an aural alchemy
[...] The long-lived summer days dried and warmed the turf in the meadows. I used to lie down in solitary corners at full length on my back, so as to feel the embrace of the earth. The grass stood high above me, and the shadows of the tree-branches danced on my face. I looked up at the sky, with half-closed eyes to bear the dazzling light. Bees buzzed over me, sometimes a butterfly passed, there was a hum in the air, greenfinches sang in the hedge [...]
[...] 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 [...]
Oh - there is so much to be had from his writings ...
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.
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