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
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.