A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Tennyson Country

Old yew, which graspest at the stones/That name the underlying dead,/Thy fibres net the dreamless head,/Thy roots are wrapped around the bones. In Memoriam: A. H. H. TENNYSON.
On either side the river lie,/Long fields of barley and of rye,/That clothe the wold and meet the sky. The Lady Of Shalott. TENNYSON.
Continuing my saunter from Hagworthingham to Bag Enderby, I finally arrived at Bag Enderby churchyard. An English country churchyard would not be complete without its yew tree. You can see Bag Enderby's yew in the picture below.
3 facts about the yew tree: 1. Its wood was used for English longbow making; 2. its leaves and bark have been used in medicinal drugs to reduce high blood pressure and alleviate hypertension; 3. its presence in churchyards often betokens a site of pre-Christian, pagan or Celtic origin - so the yew may have been there long before the church.
Saint Margaret's Church in Bag Enderby dates from the early 15th century, and is built mainly of greenstone - that's sandstone laced with the mineral glauconite, which turns green when quarried and exposed to the elements:

Opposite the church was this magnificent but lopsided horse chestnut tree, its 'candles' blowing in the wind...

... and inside the church was a map of the river Lymm, Tennyson's childhood river (really more of a stream), which I'd just crossed half an hour beforehand, and an information panel about the illustrious poet himself:

However the most interesting object in the church was this octagonal, medieval font, ornamented with stone carvings:

Tennyson was born in 1809 in the nearby village of Somersby where his father, George Clayton, was rector. He was rector at Bag Enderby too. He fathered 12 children, of which Alfred, our budding poet, was the fourth. Alfred and his siblings most probably played in and around this ancient, hollow tree I found on an overgrown green close by the church. Only the stump remains:

Legend has it that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, preached beneath this tree. Not too astonishing - as Wesley roamed the length and breadth of England and Wales for many years evangelizing under trees, in fields, at market crosses and anywhere in the open air he could find an audience.
I left behind me the ghosts of the Tennyson children, and the photograph of a very Victorian-looking Alfred Lord Tennyson, and the murmur of his babbling brook, and set off down a different path back to Hagworthingham...
(I've written before about Tennyson and his poetry here.)
To be continued...


Raph G. Neckmann said...

Yew trees are fascinating. I've always liked the atmosphere of yew hedges too - in gardens, and in paintings of gardens.

Today I've had some glorious free time to sit in the sun on the doorstep, and read the full Wordsworth poem you quoted from, 'Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey'.

Oh how wonderful! I can't think of anything to say about it - I'm just kind of 'being' it!

gleaner said...

I love the lopsided tree...an example of nature's wilful ways.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

It is so neat to be able to walk and visit such places where the likes of Tennyson and Wordsworth lived, played, worked. Especially as it looks so unchanged, which I know isn't true—though you could pretty easily convince me that it was, since the churches and trees and graveyards all look ancient. I could be green with envy over all this, jealous to the core…except your writing and photos almost take me there, and for that I'm really grateful. I enjoy these walking adventure with their literary twists immensely!

The Solitary Walker said...

RGN, I'm so pleased I've encouraged you to read/reread WW. I think that poem is magnificent. I haven't yet finished my post-sequence about Wordsworth - so do keep reading!

Some country churchyard yew trees can be unbelievably ancient. I've heard you can get 'high' from just sitting under them (some druggy scent they emit? - not sure), but I haven't tested it yet.

Thanks, too, gleaner and Grizzled for your comments. You'll have to get over here some time, Grizzled, and feel the antiquity first hand!