Adlestrop

Yes.  I remember Semington –
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly.  It was late June.
The steam hissed.  Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform.  What I saw
Was Semington – only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

If you’re familiar with Edward Thomas’ poems, you’ll know that it wasn’t Semington Halt where his train stopped in 1914, but Adlestrop, near Stow.  What a pity!  How wonderful to live in a village so immortalised in such a poem.  No doubt one of the many semi-fast Paddington to Trowbridge expresses did once stop at Semington on such a summer afternoon, but without a poet on board we shall never know about it.

The station and the trains are long gone, of course, their absence speaking to a progress of sorts.  However, the trace of the line remains and the willows, willow-herb and meadowsweet still abound, although haycocks, whether still or moving, do not.  This is not really a December poem, but reminders of Junes past and those to come are surely welcome when winter calls.

Edward Thomas did in fact know of Semington.  In 1913 he was comissioned by his publisher to take a bicycle ride from London to the Quantocks, and to write a book about it.  The book:  “In Pursuit of Spring” was published in April 1914.  In Chapter VI, after leaving Trowbridge, Thomas passes the “Lion and Fiddle” at Hilperton and then writes:

“Under elms near Semington the threshing-machine boomed, its unchanging note mingled with a hiss at the addition of each sheaf.   Otherwise the earth was the rooks’, heaven was the larks’, and I rode easily on along the good level road somewhere in  between the two”.

December 2010

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