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There’s always something to howl about

Kipling on the land we live on and the land we love

I am reputed by Macleans magazine to be well-versed in verse, so, in concert with my soul’s sister, Teri, I will lend my ear to the muses in the celebration of glorious land:

Sussex

by Rudyard Kipling

God gave all men all earth to love,
    But since our hearts are small,
Ordained for each one spot should prove
    Beloved over all;
That, as He watched Creation’s birth,
    So we, in godlike mood,
May of our love create our earth
    And see that it is good.

So one shall Baltic pines content,
    As one some Surrey glade,
Or one the palm-grove’s droned lament
    Before Levuka’s Trade.
Each to his choice, and I rejoice
    The lot has fallen to me
In a fair ground—in a fair ground—
    Yea, Sussex by the sea!

No tender-hearted garden crowns,
    No bosomed woods adorn
Our blunt, bow-headed, whale-backed Downs,
    But gnarled and writhen thorn—
Bare slopes where chasing shadows skim,
    And, through the gaps revealed,
Belt upon belt, the wooded, dim,
    Blue goodness of the Weald.

Clean of officious fence or hedge,
    Half-wild and wholly tame,
The wise turf cloaks the white cliff edge
    As when the Romans came.
What sign of those that fought and died
    At shift of sword and sword?
The barrow and the camp abide,
    The sunlight and the sward.

Here leaps ashore the full Sou’west
    All heavy-winged with brine,
Here lies above the folded crest
    The Channel’s leaden line;
And here the sea-fogs lap and cling,
    And here, each warning each,
The sheep-bells and the ship-bells ring
    Along the hidden beach.

We have no waters to delight
    Our broad and brookless vales—
Only the dewpond on the height
    Unfed, that never fails—
Whereby no tattered herbage tells
    Which way the season flies—
Only our close-bit thyme that smells
    Like dawn in Paradise.

Here through the strong and shadeless days
    The tinkling silence thrills;
Or little, lost, Down churches praise
    The Lord who made the hills:
But here the Old Gods guard their round,
    And, in her secret heart,
The heathen kingdom Wilfrid found
    Dreams, as she dwells, apart.

Though all the rest were all my share,
    With equal soul I’d see
Her nine-and-thirty sisters fair,
    Yet none more fair than she.
Choose ye your need from Thames to Tweed,
    And I will choose instead
Such lands as lie ’twixt Rake and Rye,
    Black Down and Beachy Head.

I will go out against the sun
    Where the rolled scarp retires,
And the Long Man of Wilmington
    Looks naked toward the shires;
And east till doubling Rother crawls
    To find the fickle tide,
By dry and sea-forgotten walls,
    Our ports of stranded pride.

I will go north about the shaws
    And the deep ghylls that breed
Huge oaks and old, the which we hold
    No more than Sussex weed;
Or south where windy Piddinghoe’s
    Begilded dolphin veers
And red beside wide-bankèd Ouse
    Lie down our Sussex steers.

So to the land our hearts we give
    Till the sure magic strike,
And Memory, Use, and Love make live
    Us and our fields alike—
That deeper than our speech and thought,
    Beyond our reason’s sway,
Clay of the pit whence we were wrought
    Yearns to its fellow-clay.

God gives all men all earth to love,
    But since man’s heart is small,
Ordains for each one spot shall prove
    Beloved over all.
Each to his choice, and I rejoice
    The lot has fallen to me
In a fair ground—in a fair ground—
    Yea, Sussex by the sea!

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  • 5 comments

    5 Comments so far

    1. Joe Loom May 26th, 2009 3:51 am

      Nice Greg. My mother was evacuated from London to Sussex during WWII due to the Battle of Britain. She showed me pictures of Sussex which I haven’t seen now in going on ten years. Brought it all back.

      Navy Chief, Navy Pride.

    2. Teri Lussier May 26th, 2009 4:34 am

      That is lovely! Thank you.

    3. Teri Lussier May 26th, 2009 6:48 am

      Dear Greg,

      Off the point, but I’m leaving this comment here rather than email.

      >my soul’s sister, Teri,

      I’m not always comfortable being on the receiving end of attention, so I tried to ignore this, but the truth is that this has left me tickled all morning.

      I’m both delighted and honored to be your soul’s sibling, and I cannot think of a more perfect, and poetic, way to describe our friendship.

      Fondly,
      Teri

    4. Greg Swann May 26th, 2009 7:28 am

      > I’m both delighted and honored to be your soul’s sibling

      Same here.

      So to the land our hearts we give
      Till the sure magic strike,
      And Memory, Use, and Love make live
      Us and our fields alike—
      That deeper than our speech and thought,
      Beyond our reason’s sway,
      Clay of the pit whence we were wrought
      Yearns to its fellow-clay.

      This is something I’ve felt about you since first we met. I would say that we resonate at the same frequency, but I might just as comfortably say that we come from the same dirt. Anyway, I didn’t want to presume, but I wanted to strike a coin that pays you my full debt.

    5. Pete Doty May 27th, 2009 2:30 pm

      We celebrate our right to own the land and then ask a homeowners association to enforce rules. We claim it to be a “community association” and yet it is anything but community. IT is only about ‘me and my property values’.
      If it was really a community we would know what is going on with our neighbors, and find grace or other ways to take care of business without tattling. It just does not seem right or proper that the only way to take care of issues is to ask a non goverment body to do it for us. We should be able to talk to each other, shouldn’t we?
      I long for those days and am sure they will be back.
      We can only live in our little vacuum bottles for so long.