The Land - extract from the programme
Ah, blest beyond all bliss the husbandsmen, did they but know
on whom, far from the clash of arms, the most just Earth
showers from her bosom a toilless sustenance......
so, if we may compare small things with great,
an innate love of creation spurs the Attic bees on,
each in its own way. The older ones take care of the hive,
and building the comb, and the cleverly fashioned cells.
But at night the weary young carry back sacs filled with thyme:
they graze far and wide on the blossom of strawberry-trees,
and pale-grey willows, and rosemary and bright saffron,
on rich lime-trees and on purple hyacinths.
All have one rest from work: all have one labour:
they rush from the gates at dawn: no delay: when the evening star
has warned them to leave their grazing in the fields again,
then they seek the hive, then they refresh their bodies:
And then pell-mell his harvest follows swift,
Blossom and borage, lime and balm and clover,
On Downs the thyme, on cliffs the scantling thrift,
Everywhere bees go racing with the hours,
For every bee becomes a drunken lover,
Standing upon his head to sup the flowers.
All over England, from Northumbrian coasts,
To the wild sea-pink blown on Devon rocks,
Over the merry southern gardens, over
The grey-green bean-fields, round the Kentish oasts,
Through the frilled spires of cottage hollyhocks,
Go the big brown fat bees, and wander in
Where dusty spears of sunlight cleave the barn,
And seek the sun again, and storm the whin,
And in the warm meridian solitude
Hum in the heather round the moorland tarn.
The Land was published in 1926. It is one of the greatest depictions
of English landscape in literature, particularly of the Weald of Kent.
Around 2050 years before, Publius Virgilius Maro, or Virgil, began his poem The Georgics in Rome, Italy. Far from home, as his father farmed the wide plains of the Po, he wrote of his Mantuan countryside, blending loving description with a serious manual on current agricultural practice. This model was undoubtedly a source of inspiration to Vita Sackville-West whose passion for her home in the Weald of Kent matched Virgil's longing for his rural birthplace. She pays him tribute, quoting him on the flysheet and in her final verses.
0 Mantuan! that sang the bees and vines,
The tillage and the flocks,
I saw the round moon rise above the pines,
One quiet planet prick the greening west...
That moon, that star, above my English Weald,
Hung at that hour...