The Spirit of The Downs – National Poetry Day

The Spirit of The Downs

by Arthur Beckett

OH, do you know the Downland where the sward is short and sweet,
Where the gorse is like a golden flame, where fairies you may meet?
You may see them dancing in their “rings” or swinging from a spray
Of bramble-bush, if you go there at the purple close o’ day.

You must be there at moon-rise, when light floods all the dells,
‘Tis then you’ll hear the fairy-horns, the sound o’fairy bells,
For night-time is the witching time; ‘tis then you must away
And climb the slope to Downland at purple close o’ day.

And uncouth forms you there may see above the swelling mounds
Of barrows or of tumuli; perhaps too, hear the sounds
Of words you will not understand; perchance you’ll see the fray
For bloody fights are fought there at purple close o’ day.

And if you climb up old Caburn to view the Celtic Camp,
And look across the Wealden plain when mists rise thick and damp,
You’ll see about the foot o’ Firle the Romans brave array,
Of Saxon soldiers coming home at purple close o’ day.

And as you sit upon the cliff and sniff the salty sea,
You’ll see a smuggler standing in, men wading to the knee;
The horses are soon loaded, the lugger sails away,
The “Gentlemen” are hard at work at purple close o’ day.

The distant down is dappled with a thousand grey-white sheep,
The tuneful tinkle of their bells steals from the far-off steep;
And as you watch the shepherd calls, “Goo, fetch um home, good Tray!”
The faithful collie folds the flock at purple close o’ day.

Oh, have you heard the skylark above the Downland sing,
Ascending from the dewy grass near Chanctonbury Ring?
I’ve heard his song there eight months long, and most of all in May,
But I love the Downland lark the best at purple close o’ day.

I’ve smelt the summer gorse at eve a-top o’ Kithurst Hill,
As I stood to gaze upon the scene from thence to Selsey Bill;
But of all the subtle Downland breaths, the best of all, I say,
Comes from the violet thymy banks at purple close o’day.

You may vaunt to me of visions dreamed in any other shire,
No wolds and fells, or heathy dells, but these my heart inspire;
I know them all, they’re at my call whene’er I go away.

To Downland, to Downland at purple close o’ day.