Some Quantock Items

Henry Newbolt

Newbolt owned The Old School House at Aisholt and lived there after the end of the Great War. In his time he was fantastically popular as a poet with his stirring, patriotic verses about Drake and Nelson or the Afghan and Boer wars. His popularity declined after World War One, and he has hardly been taken seriously as a poet since. Not that his poetry isn't good - men of his generation knew about technique and form and rythm and how to make words memorable, just that his sentiments even in the 1920s seemed so anachronistic and so inappropriate after the cataclysm of the Great War.  His most famous poem is Vitai Lampada:

NewboltTHERE'S a breathless hush in the Close to-night -
Ten to make and the match to win -
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But his Captain's hand on his shoulder smote
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

The sand of the desert is sodden red, -
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; -
The Gatling's jammed and the colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of schoolboy rallies the ranks,
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

This is the word that year by year
While in her place the School is set
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind -
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

I don't know of any poem of his which refers directly to the Quantocks, but maybe this, which comes from 'The Death of Admiral Blake'. Blake is dying at sea as his squadron makes its way back across Biscay and he dreams of seeing his home again:

"Oh! to be there for an hour when the shade draws in beside the hedgerows,
And falling apples wake the drowsy noon:
Oh! for the hour when the elms grow sombre and human in the twilight,
And gardens dream beneath the rising moon.

"Only to look once more on the land of the memories of childhood,
Forgetting weary winds and barren foam:
Only to bid farewell to the combe and the orchard and the moorland,
And sleep at last among the fields of home!

Blake's family came from Plainsfield, just a mile from Aisholt.

The Old School House at Aisholt

Last Updated on  October 16th, 2014