Thursday, 22 April 2010

Home thoughts from a Broad

Now that my time in Highgate is fast coming to an end, I decided to go for a walk in Waterlow Park. It is notable for its links with the celebrated Restoration courtesan Nell Gywn, who is thought to have lived for a time in Lauderdale House, the mansion still standing in its grounds. Waterlow Park also borders Highgate Cemetery, one of whose most famous eternal residentsighgate cemetery is Karl Marx. Had I been born but a century earlier and followed the same career path I might well have bumped into Karl when I worked late in the Reading Room of the British Library. However, my stroll did not bring to mind the German philosopher but rather his contemporary, the Victorian poet Robert Browning and in particular the following poem by him:

Home Thoughts from Abroad

Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England-now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops-at the bent spray's edge-
That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

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