Yes, I remember Adlestrop,
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop – only the name
And so begins Adlestrop, gentle, uneventful and simply one of the most beautiful poems in the English language, do read more. But as well as the perfect description of the stillness that can settle on the English countryside on a hot summer afternoon, it also shows a fascination with one of those aspects of England that we who live there often forget, the wonderful legacy of names.
Adlestrop – only the name
For Thomas understood the inherent poetry of names, another of my favourite poems of his begins.
If I should ever by chance grow rich
I’ll buy Codham, Cockridden, and Childerditch,
Roses, Pyrgo, and Lapwater,
And let them all to my eldest daughter.
For English names can be wonderful, they can provoke humour because of apparent crudity. Living on the downs above the river Piddle I know how so many laugh at villages that take their name from the river. Names have been changed, would the pioneering trades unionists be so well known if they were the Tolpiddle martyrs? They could have been as Tolpiddle was the older name of the village, Tolpuddle becoming the standard form only by the mid nineteenth century.
The ‘road’ to Frome St Quintain
Some can be beautiful, Rhyme Intrinsica or Frome St Quintain a tinly village where there is now no road to the church (there used to be but the houses alongside were demolished a couple of hundred years ago, and the land turned into a field with a footpath to the church).
Others are decidedly odd, Margaret Marsh sounds more like the name of a gym teacher, than a hamlet in Dorset at the end of a long road that goes nowhere else.
And when names are invented, unselfconsciously, not trying for anything grand the effect can be wonderfully poetic. My favourite group of this type of names can be found in varieties of fruit, especially apples. A list of old varieties almost forms itself into poetry.
Crimson Newton, D’Arcy Spice, Downton Pippin and Easter Orange.
Emneth Early, Feltham Beauty, Goodwood Pippin and Hanwell Souring
You can feel the local pride in the Keswick Codlin. Or perhaps imagine Mrs Lakeman, in the final years of Queen Victoria’s reign cutting the first apple from her new tree (Mrs Lakeman’s Seedling or Lakeman’s Superb) and saying, ‘I think that will do.”
As Kipling was to write in another ‘name’ poem, this time on herbs.
Excellent herbs had our fathers of old,
Excellent herbs to ease their pain,
Alexanders and Marigold,
Eyebright, Orris, and Elecampane,
Basil, Rocket, Valerian, Rue,
(Almost singing themselves they run)
Vervain, Dittany, Call-me-to-you,
Cowslip, Melitot, Rose of the Sun,
Anything green that grew out of the mould
Was an excellent herb to our fathers of old.
And with the names ‘singing themselves’ I will end this three quotes in three days challenge set by Willowdot21, many thanks for the idea, and no I won’t be throwing a big book either at you, or down in disgust (I would never do that anyway – it might damage the book).