Monday, April 27, 2015

From a Railway Carriage - Robert Louis Stevenson

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.

Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And there is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart run away in the road
Lumping along with a man and load;
And here is a mill and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone for ever!

Ever since their introduction, trains, and the unique rhythms and perspectives they provide have captivated poets.  Everything you can see out of a train window is a small scene, a small slice.  Those scenes fuel our imaginations, as this poem shows.  Every line we see here is a quick account of something seen for just a second.  The line that best sums it up is the final one: "Each a glimpse and gone for ever!"

I wrote a similar poem when I took a bus from Leeds to London, and was captivated by the countryside.  Though it didn't have the train's rhythm, I tried to replicate the way the countryside seems to blur together as you pass it at motorway speeds.  I hope it was effective! 

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