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From The English Countryside:  Tales Of Tragedy: Narrated In Dramatic Traditional Verse From The English Countryside: Tales Of Tragedy: Narrated In Dramatic Traditional Verse by John Rawson
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“THE MEETING"

"Scant rain had fallen and the summer sun
Had scorched with waves of heat the ripening corn,
That August nightfall, as I crossed the down
Work-weary, half in dream. Beside a fence
Skirting a penning’s edge, an old man waited
Motionless in the mist, with downcast head
And clothing weather-worn. I asked his name
And why he lingered at so lonely a place.

“I was a shepherd here. Two hundred seasons
I roamed these windswept downlands with my flock.
No fences barred our progress and we’d travel
Wherever the bite grew deep. In summer drought
I’d climb from flower-banked combe to barrow’d hill-top
To find a missing straggler or set snares
By wood or turmon-patch. In gales of March
I’d crouch nightlong tending my suckling lambs.

“I was a ploughman, too. Year upon year
I trudged half-doubled, hands clenched to my shafts,
Guiding my turning furrow. Overhead,
Cloud-patterns built and faded, many a song
Of lark and pewit melodied my toil.
I durst not pause to heed them, rising at dawn
To groom and dress my team: by daylight’s end
My boots hung heavy, clodded with chalk and flint.

“And then I was a carter. With my skill
I built the reeded dew-pond, sliced out hay
From the dense-matted rick. At harvest time,
My wain piled high with sheaves, I urged the horses
Back to the master’s barn with shouts and curses
Before the scurrying storm. Through sunlit days
On this same slope where you now stand, my friend,
I stood till dusk scything the poppied fields.

“My cob-built home has crumbled. Hereabouts
Few folk remember me: and though you stare
Till time’s conclusion you’ll not glimpse me striding
The broad, bare down with flock or toiling team.
Yet in this landscape still my spirit lingers:
Down the long bottom where the tractors rumble,
On the steep hanging where wild grasses murmur,
In the sparse covert where the dog-fox patters.”

My comrade turned aside. From the damp sward
Drifted a scent of melilot and thyme;
From far across the down a barn owl shouted,
Circling the silence of that summer evening:
But in an instant, as I stepped towards him
Striving to view his face, his contour altered.
Before me, in the vaporous gloaming, stood
Nothing of flesh, only a post of wood.”
John Rawson, From The English Countryside: Tales Of Tragedy: Narrated In Dramatic Traditional Verse

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