From a Railway Carriage

Over the summer we wandered along the old railway embankment, heading west from Outmarsh.  This gave almost a mile of fine walking through scentless mayweed along an open track bordered with thistle, teasle and blackthorn, before barbed wire and then matted brambles barred the way.  The rail bed provides elevated views across the village and beyond, and it was easy to imagine all this passing quickly by in a rhythmic rush, as Robert Louis Stevenson does in his From a Railway Carriage, first published in 1885 in a collection called Penny Whistles.  In this, he captured the sensation and sights of train travel long before the much better known Night Mail.

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches,
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.

Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and grazes;
And there is a green for stringing daisies!
Here is a cart run away in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone for ever!

September 2011

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