Marshall’s Arm Poetry Walk – the texts

Marshall's Arm 012

I’ve had a request to share the texts I chose for my poetry walk last weekend, through Marshall’s Arm Nature Reserve in my village. So here they are. As well as those listed in full, I also read John Clare poems taken from The Wood is Sweet (John Clare Society edited by David Powell): The Woodland Style, extract from Summer Images, Meet Me in the Green Glen, Hedge Sparrow.

Tall Nettles

TALL nettles cover up, as they have done
These many springs, the rusty harrow, the plough
Long worn out, and the roller made of stone:
Only the elm butt tops the nettles now.

This corner of the farmyard I like most:
As well as any bloom upon a flower
I like the dust on the nettles, never lost
Except to prove the sweetness of a shower.

Edward Thomas




Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leafs a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Robert Frost

 Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins


GLORY be to God for dappled things—

  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

  Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;


    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:


                  Praise him.

From Hamlet

There is a willow grows aslant a brook

That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.

Duke’s Clough

Leaving the copse, walking back to bikes,

feet snag on ruts. Glancing back

from here, it’s nothing much,

just trees, battered by the motorway.

‘Come on’, says dad, it’s time to go.’

back to the fusty house for Sunday tea.

Brambles snatch our slacks, fruitless hooks

fragmenting the track as we climb.

Armfuls of bluebells powder the air,

cool and woody, intoxicating as whispered words.

Thrushes threaten their neighbours in syllabics.

Crass cars tune up through engines’ scales.

As the bike’s pedals respond to weight and time

the clough is lost to us, a closed fist, a shut eye.

Angela Topping


Passer, deliciae meae puellae – Catullus


When wind and earth joined together

to make the sparrow, they set

its toy heart flickering,

its small feet clicking. The breast

was made from speckled foam,

the wings painted with colours

left over from other creations:

burnt sienna, cafe latte, sludge.

Although the bird’s beauty

was doubtful, it could weave in

and out of hedges, eaves and thatch.

The voice was nothing special:

a chirrup like a giggle fastened

in its throat like a comedy brooch.

Wind and earth baptised their child.

The first fairy godmother named it passer,

the second gave it joy, the third

the greatest gift of all: to be convivial.

The sparrow was a great success,

beloved of a poet’s paramour, able to

hop into human habitations unafraid.

Angela Topping

Bee! I’m expecting you!
Was saying Yesterday
To Somebody you know
That you were due —

The Frogs got Home last Week —
Are settled, and at work —
Birds, mostly back —
The Clover warm and thick —

You’ll get my Letter by
The seventeenth; Reply
Or better, be with me —
Yours, Fly.

Emily Dickinson





Incorrigible, brash,
They brightened the cinder path of my childhood.
Unsubtle, the opposite of primroses,
But, unlike primroses, capable
Of growing anywhere, railway track, pierhead,
Like our extrovert friends who never
Make us fall in love, yet fill
The primroseless roseless gaps.

~ Louis MacNeice (1907-1963), Irish poet



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