Friday, 22 May 2015

This England: Bluebells

A walk in the woods
The planet turns, life goes on, humans connect and we go for a walk in the woods.
Badby Bluebell Woods - all photos by Harriet

The famous Badby bluebells
I mentioned “Badbeee” in the blog “Living in the South” (here) and last weekend that’s where we stayed for a weekend checking out the latest Merchant of Venice at the Royal Shakespeare Company.  The production was fascinating and I expect I'll blog about it in the future but another memorable and relaxing activity was a Saturday afternoon walk in the famous Badby Bluebell Woods.
Paths in the wood - all photos by Harriet

Happy Valley
Both Emily and Anne Brontë penned a poetic tribute to the bluebell, catching (as they would) the heartbreaking ambiguity of this tough perennial.  It was exciting to learn that Sally Wainwright is scripting a new drama about the life of the Brontës.

Last Tango in Halifax, Happy Valley, a 1979 French film poster

Happy Valley was one of the most compelling TV series I’ve seen in recent times. Her earlier work is also distinctive in giving natural voices to ordinary people and effortlessly fulfilling the Bechdel test with great roles for actresses.
I'm expecting the characters of Charlotte, Emily and Anne to have plenty to say to each other in Sally Wainwright's script - and rarely about men.  The bluebell poems of the Haworth sisters are interesting to compare and I copy them below for those who have time to pause.
Badby Bluebell Woods - all photos by Harriet

The Bluebell by Anne Brontë

A fine and subtle spirit dwells
In every little flower,
Each one its own sweet feeling breathes
With more or less of power. 

There is a silent eloquence

In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
That words could never tell.

Yet I recall not long ago

A bright and sunny day,
'Twas when I led a toilsome life
So many leagues away;

That day along a sunny road

All carelessly I strayed,
Between two banks where smiling flowers
Their varied hues displayed.

Before me rose a lofty hill,

Behind me lay the sea,
My heart was not so heavy then
As it was wont to be.

Less harassed than at other times

I saw the scene was fair,
And spoke and laughed to those around,
As if I knew no care.

But when I looked upon the bank

My wandering glances fell
Upon a little trembling flower,
A single sweet bluebell.

Whence came that rising in my throat,

That dimness in my eye?
Why did those burning drops distil —
Those bitter feelings rise?

O, that lone flower recalled to me

My happy childhood's hours
When bluebells seemed like fairy gifts
A prize among the flowers,

Those sunny days of merriment

When heart and soul were free,
And when I dwelt with kindred hearts
That loved and cared for me.

I had not then mid heartless crowds

To spend a thankless life
In seeking after others' weal
With anxious toil and strife.  

'Sad wanderer, weep those blissful times

That never may return!'
The lovely floweret seemed to say,
And thus it made me mourn.
Badby Bluebell Woods - all photos by Harriet

The Bluebell by Emily Brontë

The Bluebell is the sweetest flower
That waves in summer air:
Its blossoms have the mightiest power
To soothe my spirit's care.

There is a spell in purple heath

Too wildly, sadly dear;
The violet has a fragrant breath,
But fragrance will not cheer,

The trees are bare, the sun is cold,

And seldom, seldom seen;
The heavens have lost their zone of gold,
And earth her robe of green.

And ice upon the glancing stream

Has cast its sombre shade;
And distant hills and valleys seem
In frozen mist arrayed.

The Bluebell cannot charm me now,

The heath has lost its bloom;
The violets in the glen below,
They yield no sweet perfume.

But, though I mourn the sweet Bluebell,

'Tis better far away;
I know how fast my tears would swell
To see it smile to-day.

For, oh! when chill the sunbeams fall

Adown that dreary sky,
And gild yon dank and darkened wall
With transient brilliancy;

How do I weep, how do I pine

For the time of flowers to come,
And turn me from that fading shine,
To mourn the fields of home!