Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Now the Stinking Engine Roars

Robin Tanner (1904-1988), "Haymaking," in Double Harness (London: Impact Books, 1987), pp. 175-178:
Where once the haycocks lay
Soft-mounded and sweet,
Compounded was that hay
Of sorrel and cow-wheat,
Trefoil and tormentil,
Potentilla, meadowsweet,
Melilot and storksbill
Pungent in June heat;
Lady's bedstraw, woodruff,
Lady's mantle, marguerite,
With marjoram flowers enough
To make the air sweet;
Wagwants and nameless grasses,
Goosegrass, cocksfeet,
Feverfew and creeping Jenny,
Eyebright neat.

Where once the wagon rolled
Hoop-raved and proud
Across the shorn wold
Under the June cloud,
With slow sound of horse and wheel
Through aisles of grass and vetch,
Meadow vetchling, selfheal,
The scented load to fetch —
Knapweed, silverweed,
Hawkweed and clover,
Meadow sage, meadow rue
The pasture over:
Meadow fescue, millet grass,
Timothy and rye,
Salad burnet, creeping cinquefoil
Under the June sky —

Now the stinking engine roars
Down streamlined fields.
Oblong hayblocks
Its vomit yields.
Of sterile and purest ley,
Parcelled and hard,
Compounded is that hay,
By no flower marred;
Tested and scentless,
Weedless and clean,
Clinical bales
Litter the June scene.

Yet when the summer moon
Rises over the wood,
They are like standing stones
That have always stood;
Primeval and high,
Ageless, stark,
Their long shadows lie
In the June dark.
Older than haycocks
These cromlechs stand:
They rise from the land.
Man's strange ways,
Newfangled and odd,
Are all one
To the June god.

Robin Tanner, Wiltshire Hoop-Raved Wagon

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


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