Thursday 5 April 2012

April in Ledbury with Browning

I have been staying with my mother for a week, in Ledbury, which seems to be something of a black hole as far as the Internet is concerned – a lot of the time it seems impossible to get online at all, and when you it keeps disappearing, for no apparent reason, so I eventually gave up trying to write anything for the blog, although I did manage to post the occasional comment on other people’s blogs.

Anyway, the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning spent her childhood at Hope End, her family’s 500-acre estate which stood just outside the town. Long after they moved away she eloped with the poet Robert Browning who, like Dickens, was born in 1812, and whose birthday I share (May 7, but, obviously, I am not quite that old, even if there are days when I feel like it ).  The couple lived in Italy, and, should you wonder, there is a point to my ramblings, because it is April – a little colder and greyer than the April depicted in Browning’s poem, Home Thoughts from Abroad (written in Italy), but since I am now back home and reconnected with the Internet, I thought I would celebrate by sharing the poem with you.

Oh, To be in England
Now that April 's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England—now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossom'd pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray's edge—
That 's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
—Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

Robert Browning


  1. I ache to be there whenever I read these beautiful words. I've been listening to Vashti Bunyan's Diamond Day album all day, and she sings a lot about the natural world there. I so often feel that it is my soul home.

  2. The poem makes me think of all the wonderful films I've seen... like Howards End. I've visited England several times, and always want to revisit. Browning's descriptions make it ever more enticing. We're still having snow even yesterday!

  3. Nan and Arti, it is a beautiful poem, and it always makes me feel glad - sometimes I think other people appreciate England more than the English do! We had snow and sleet on Wednesday (after weeks of unseasonal warm weather had lulled us all into a sense of false security and made us feel summer had arrived) but today is the kind of April morning Browning yearned for,when everything seems fresh and new, with a slight frost,pale blue sky, light gold sun,and promise of a fine day ahead.