Hilaire Belloc

(27 July 1870 – 16 July 1953 / La Celle-Saint-Cloud)

The South Country

Poem by Hilaire Belloc

When I am living in the Midlands
That are sodden and unkind,
I light my lamp in the evening:
My work is left behind;
And the great hills of the South Country
Come back into my mind.

The great hills of the South Country
They stand along the sea;
And it's there walking in the high woods
That I could wish to be,
And the men that were boys when I was a boy
Walking along with me.

The men that live in North England
I saw them for a day:
Their hearts are set upon the waste fells,
Their skies are fast and grey;
From their castle-walls a man may see
The mountains far away.

The men that live in West England
They see the Severn strong,
A-rolling on rough water brown
Light aspen leaves along.
They have the secret of the Rocks,
And the oldest kind of song.

But the men that live in the South Country
Are the kindest and most wise,
They get their laughter from the loud surf,
And the faith in their happy eyes
Comes surely from our Sister the Spring
When over the sea she flies;
The violets suddenly bloom at her feet,
She blesses us with surprise.

I never get between the pines
But I smell the Sussex air;
Nor I never come on a belt of sand
But my home is there.
And along the sky the line of the Downs
So noble and so bare.

A lost thing could I never find,
Nor a broken thing mend:
And I fear I shall be all alone
When I get towards the end.
Who will there be to comfort me
Or who will be my friend?

I will gather and carefully make my friends
Of the men of the Sussex Weald;
They watch the stars from silent folds,
They stiffly plough the field.
By them and the God of the South Country
My poor soul shall be healed.

If I ever become a rich man,
Or if ever I grow to be old,
I will build a house with deep thatch
To shelter me from the cold,
And there shall the Sussex songs be sung
And the story of Sussex told.

I will hold my house in the high wood
Within a walk of the sea,
And the men that were boys when I was a boy
Shall sit and drink with me.

Comments about The South Country by Hilaire Belloc

  • Rosemary Blackshaw (2/3/2019 4:31:00 PM)

    As soon as I hear the first two lines of this poem, I am transported back to the 1950s, sitting on my father's knee and listening to him reading.. It was one of his favourites and is one of mine too.
    Other special poems for us were Lepanto by G.K. Chesterton and Cargoes by John Masefield. These poems bring my Dad back to me!(Report)Reply

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  • Stella Cameron (8/1/2018 8:15:00 PM)

    This poem has traveled with me since I was a schoolgirl in the south of England. Now that I live thousands of miles, and many years, away I still recite the words in my mind as I walk on a day with that certain scent of fallen leaves and snapping air.(Report)Reply

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  • David Miller (4/10/2018 12:49:00 PM)

    Avery haunting poem. I do think of the men who were boys when I was a boy and realise that there are not many of us left now.(Report)Reply

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  • Ian K (7/23/2017 12:36:00 PM)

    I'm not sure exactly why I love this poem as I have absolutely no connection with Sussex or any part of the south, though I have visited and can identify with the feeling of place. I think what I connect with is the feeling of being alone and hoping for friends at the last.(Report)Reply

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  • Steve Mobbs (2/25/2017 2:41:00 AM)

    Being born in Eastbourne too many years ago, and now living in the North, I love this poem. It's bitter sweet though. As much as I love Northumberland, this makes me yearn for the county of my birth and can make me homesick. Unfortunately, I will never be able to afford a house in the high woods, nor will I drink with the men who were boys with me as I live too faraway. Buti do feel a little closer to home whenever I read this masterpiece(Report)Reply

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Read poems about / on: sea, house, sister, laughter, faith, spring, work, happy, light, song, friend, water, fear, lost, home, alone, sky, star

Poem Submitted: Wednesday, May 9, 2001