The Way to England


You cannot get to England by bus, or train,
          or any of the customary modes of transportation.
Even a car will only bring you to the gates—
          but these are everywhere, of course, wanting but
                     the beholder.

There will be a style, or a post worn smooth
          by fellow sojourners’ hands,
                     and a small wooden sign pointing the way to England.
They really can’t be missed, these portals, though they often are,
          hurried past in what must seem an insult to their invitation.

To find England, you must venture from the toil trodden ways
          into unmarked lanes and well-worn footpaths—
                     the arteries and leafy veins of her evergreen heart.
You must stain your fingers purple with the fruit of the jeweled hedgerows,
          and grant a respectful audience to the robin bursting
                     his heart with song for you in the hawthorn hard-by.
You must sally forth like an adventurer of old, with sandwiches
          in a field bag and a water bottle bouncing against you knee and
                     perhaps a stick for good measure, though certainly not required.

You will need a map, limp with much folding, and a pair of stout shoes,
          impervious to mud and the occasional ford. And a heart that bends its
                     knee to beauty. That is all.
And what will you gain for such vagabond ways? For the lane’s
          gentle summons and your kind heart to heed it? Well might you ask,
                     and full fair I make answer—

Yours will be the spice-scented fern and all the oriental wealth of the wild
          foxglove, nodding in courtly deference as you pass. The furze will spangle
                     its gossamer with diamonds for your pleasure, and your way
will be cast with the pearls of the wood dove’s plume. The emerald moss
          will offer itself for your repose—so velvet a throne a queen might covet!—
                     and the woods, with their holy aisles and long-shadowed silences,
will hold their breath in reverence for your prayers, while the wind chants antiphonies
          among the orieled patches of sky.

A field will bare its green bosom and cosset your soul, like the lambs and ewes
          nourished thereby, and you will long to lie down in that peace,
                     it will be so sweet. And cresting
some hill, steep and irresistible of ascent, you will find yourself sudden monarch
          of all you survey: an ancient domain cast from your height
                     in all points of the compass.
A kingdom primeval of verdure and gilt,
          fading past sight into blue dreaming hazes.

There the wind will show you its wildness, lifting your heart clean off
          its sane footing. And there the white gulls will wing their aerial
                     dances for your delight.
All of these things I give you in promise, and more that cannot be uttered,
          so great is their gift. If you will but commit your ways to the countryside,
                     returning the kiss of the gracious sun
and lifting your face to the favor of a wind-washed shower; if you will but love
          the elf-light passing through clouds and gamboling over the landscape
                     with ripples of grace,
and court her fairy-haunted hollows in silence and sweet fancy—

—then, O wayfarer, I pledge with all the firm compact of gallantry’s code—

          You will find her, England fair.

                     And your heart will not be unlost.

I wrote this poem in England last autumn on a beloved Dorset hilltop, and I’m missing the place so painfully I thought I’d share it. Incidentally, I penned another which I wrote about here, and which managed to find its way into print this autumn by way of The Molehill. :)

8 Responses to “The Way to England”

  1. JJ says:

    Such loveliness makes my breath catch…

  2. Bonnie Buckingham says:

    I have The Molehill. LOVE your writing.
    Are you making any more LMM books?

  3. Andrea says:

    One of the most lovely things I’ve read. Adored! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Beautiful! You are definitely one of my favorite writer-poets. :)

  5. How lovely, Lanier! And congratulations on getting your work printed in The Molehill — the journal looks wonderful.

  6. Kristen Anna says:

    This is lovely, Lanier! I’ve been wanting to explore the Engish countryside lately. It’s nice to be able to visit by way of this beautiful poem, if only in my imagination. ;-)

  7. lea says:

    this is such a beautiful tribute
    to a wonderful place! we just
    returned from london and love
    even more than ever.

  8. Martina says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful, lovely poem with us.
    A month ago, I was finally in England for the first time. I decided against renting a car and tried to get to some castles and gardens from London by train or bus and finally by foot. One time, I thought I was lost and a little desperate – there was nobody around but sheep, hares, brambleberry hedges and rolling fields. Looking back, this was the best half hour of my trip! (And I was quite near my destination, as it turned out…) There is nothing like exploring an unknown country in solitude and by foot.

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