How shall I write of Sussex, who have known
No other home? Who grew to love her sandy shores
Pebble-guarded, and rock-pool studded – where the turned rock
Yielded the slippery elver – sliding through hands, knees, feet,
Eluding capture – yet thrilling still.
Who climbed upon the rolling bare-backed Downs
Sheep-grazed, and so flower-studded; Tiny orchids,
The Sussex rampion, harebells, scabious, and the fragrant thyme.
The wooded Weald to the north, and south the moving sea, misty or sparkling,
Blending salt air and downland breeze.
The hayfields, full of flowers, were served by men;
And massive, patient horses, swishing their tails against the flies.
There were wet places still, where one caught newts
With tiny human hands; tadpoles and minute toads;
Where moorhens clucked and circled like clockwork toys.
There were kingcups then, hugely golden; iris and water-lilies,
Tall rushes at the edge of the deeper pool, where cattle drank.
We’d drive out to the woods, parking the car and picnicking
To hear the nightingales singing their hearts out
In the growing dusk, oblivious of their human audience.
How little now remains of all this largesse –
Only what can be caught in memory’s net –
To be passed on to those who come after
Who doubtless feel
Their elders probably exaggerate the joys of their lost youth.
It’s true that as the century draws near its end
Those who remember its early years can see
Each generation has less treasures left to hoard –
Unless, maybe, as this old century dies, the trend
Can be reversed, and the next return some of the riches
That have gone – a rebirth of the treasures of the past
Valued, at last, by a new century.