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Dry Drayton This April, a Poem by Frank Kendon

 

Frank Samuel Herbert Kendon (1893-1959), son of a schoolteacher, was born and educated in Kent and served in the army during WW1. He read English at St John's College Cambridge, graduating in 1921. Kendon published a number of poems and a novel in the 1920s. His autobiography, "The Small Years", was published in 1930. From 1935 to 1954 Frank worked for the Cambridge University Press.

 

"Dry Drayton in April" is, we believe, the only poem about our village ever to have been published. The poem appeared in "Poems by Four Authors" published by Bowes and Bowes, 1 Trinity Street, Cambridge, in 1923. The four poets were J.R.Ackerley, A.Y.Campbell, Edward Davison and Frank Kendon. There was no apparent connection between the poets and inclusion was simply a matter of convenience. They appear in the volume in alphabetical order by surname. The Frank Kendon poems are: The Excuse, The Silent Gardener, Ophelia, Passover, What Lack I, I Spend My Days Vainly, Monochrome, Broken Tryst, Dry Drayton This April, The Orange, Now To The World and 12 sonnets.

 

We do not know what brought Frank Kendon to Dry Drayton in the spring of 1922 or 1923, but the rich picture he records of colours, sounds and smells clearly made a positive and lasting impression.

 

We are most grateful to Frank Kendon's descendants for permission to reproduce the poem here.

 

You can read more about the author, Frank Kendon, here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Kendon
https://www.joh.cam.ac.uk/fsh-kendon-1893-1959-poet

 

Dry Drayton This April

 

The parsley stands hip-deep by the side of the meadow,
And under the leafy elms the grass lies greening;
Cuckoo calls to cuckoo across the level pastures;
All day long the air makes merry with thrushes;
All day long the cumulus follows his fellow
Over the high blue heavens that arch the Spring.

 

Cows graze over the meadows, leaving the cowslips,
Thick are the cowslips, pale in the lusty meadows,
So that their fragrance, mingled with sweet smell of parsley,
The wind is wafting in faint, delicious thrills.

 

The grass is a flaming green, an emerald brilliance;
But under the new brown leaves of the late-burst oak trees,
Few and precious at first, and increasing in number,
The wind-bowed hyacinths muster their mist of azure;
Until, in the thicker copsewood, their myriad blossoms
Sweep like a sea of amethyst, dark in the distance,
Dyeing the halcyon woods to the base of the trees.

 

This is the earth divine, where I, an intruder,
Drown my eyes in colour, my ears in music,
Bear but one sense at a time, forgetting in vision
The multitudinous calls of linnet and cuckoo;
Listening, see not the wonderful chords of colour;
Watching, forget the songs and scents of Spring.

 

Ah, but at night, if sleep come tardily bedward,
Out of the dark, the silence, the scentless night air,
I draw to myself again the hyacinth's violet,
The cowslips gold, the palpitant green of the grasses,
I draw to my dreaming ears the cry of the cuckoo
With woven songs of linnet and thrush and blackbird,
I draw to myself the indescribable sweetness -
The rank perfume of grass and trampled parsley,
The scent balsamic of bursting elm and chestnut,
The winy cowslip flowers, the breath of the bluebells,
Blended yet distinct, like the tones of a song.

                   
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