Cicely Fox Smith

(1 February 1882 – 8 April 1954 / Lymm, Cheshire)

Stoke Charity - A Hampshire Placename - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith

Of all the names of ford and town,
Hamlet and bridge and furzy down.
That makes sweet music to the ear
By troutful Test and Itchen clear,
The Clatfords and the Sombornes twain,
Freefolk and Farley Chamberlayne,
Shy Bransbury and St. Mary Bourne,
The ford dead RUFUS passed forlorn,
The Candovers, the Worthys three,
The sweetest is Stoke Charity.

'Stoke Charity' The tall elms shade
The grey old church the Normans made;
The yew-tree lifts its noon-dark head
By mounds where sleep the quiet dead;
Through mellowed pains the sunlight passes
To splash with gold the graven brasses
Of knight and lady, son and daughter,
Who went their ways as went the water
That turned, years past, the vanished mill
Whose mouldering wheel has long stood still.
A kindly name - a kindly place,
Where life still keeps its peaceful pace,
Where nothing day by day is found

But man's and nature's homely round,
But joys and sorrows, hopes and fears
And passing of unstoried years,
Toil, rest and slumber - all the same
As when old furious CORBETT came
This way, with generous heart aflame,
Drew rein and paused awhile to see
How faired it with Stoke Charity.

To-day, as then, the willows shiver
All green and grey along the river
Where in the pools Jack Heron fishes
and through the weeds the moorhen swishes,
And in the bank the bright-eyed vole
Peers shy and watchful from his hole;
The whole wide valley fills and glows
With dawn-fires and with sunset rose;
In meadows bare to wind and sun
The mad march hares rejoicing run
And gathering plovers flock and fly,
Soar, turn and gleam with plaintive cry;
Season by season brings again
The farmer and the latter rain,
And Spring’s first swallow oversea
To England - and Stoke Charity.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, August 30, 2010

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