online: 20 september 2006
modified: 20 september 2006

19 september 2006 hill to hill

afternoon... Harrow-on-the-Hill

...a church spire visible from a lookout place in the Hill Garden on Hampstead Heath... about 7 miles (or 10 kilometres) away...

...i walked up an immense lawn from the bottom of the hill to the treeline of the wooded hilltop...

...once in the wood it is as quiet as countryside - as if no city were surrounding and below...

...near to the church (of St Mary) i find Byron's poem to this place (where he often came as a boy at Harrow school):


Spot of my youth! whose hoary branches sigh,
Swept by the breeze that fans thy cloudless sky;
Where now alone I muse, who oft have trod,
With those I lov'd, thy soft and verdant sod;
With those who, scatter'd far, perchance deplore,
Like me, the happy scenes they knew before:
Oh! as I trace again thy winding hill,
Mine eyes admire, my heart adores thee still,
Thou drooping Elm! beneath whose boughs I lay,
And frequent mus'd the twilight hours away;
But, ah! without the thoughts which then were mine:
How do thy branches, moaning to the blast,
Invite the bosom to recall the past,
And seem to whisper, as they gently swell
"Take, while thou cans't, a lingering, last farewell!"

2 September 1807

The poem is inscribed in stone - on return home i found that there is a second verse, not shown, even more beautiful, in which Byron expresses his wish to be buried there:

When Fate shall chill, at length, this fever'd breast,
And calm its cares and passions into rest,
Oft have I thought, t'would soothe my dying hour,-
If aught may soothe, when Life resigns her power,-
To know some humbler grave, some narrow cell,
Would hide my bosom where it lov'd to dwell;
With this fond dream, methinks 'twere sweet to die-
And here it linger'd, here my heart might lie;
Here might I sleep where all my hopes arose,
Scene of my youth, and couch of my repose;
For ever stretched beneath this mantling shade,
Press'd by the turf where once my childhood play'd;
Wrapt by the soil that veils the spot I lov'd.
Mix'd with the earth o'er which my footsteps mov'd;
Blest by the tongues that charm'd my youthful ear,
Mourn'd by the few my soul acknowledged here;
Deplor'd by those in early days allied,
And unremember'd by the world beside.

(he was not buried there but his daughter Allegra is buried in an unmarked grave near to the church) I read these verses i am amazed at their gentle rhythm, rhyme, and thought, yet composed of very ordinary, almost hackneyed, phrases... as if Byron did not care to be original, or clever, only to make his thoughts clear, and musical.

There is a bronze relief map, showing directions and distances to towns to the west, even Winchester 60 miles (100 kilometres) away and Henley, Reading, and others not so far...

St Mary's on the hill, 'the visible church' as it is described in one of the publications i read there... yes, visible from Hampstead Heath, that's what brought me here today...

...that, and the knowledge that David Jones* spent his last years in Harrow-on-the-Hill, latterly in a nursing home. I asked several people but none knew of him, or where he lived, and died. He is known for his handwritten lettering and inscriptions (in a mixture of English, Welsh and Latin), for 'In Parenthesis' his modern epic poem of trench warfare in World War 1... and also for his fairy-like paintings (but hard and definite) of mythical themes.

*on a previous walk (to the place from where i first saw the church steeple at Harrow-on-the-Hill from Hampstead Heath) i wrote a little more of David Jones... See also the walk of 6 june 2006.

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