Last month’s Story about the Trout Inn prompted a flurry of peacock-, beer-, and river-related reminiscence – including this lyrical passage:

And once we rowed together up the river
To many-gated Godstow, where the stream
Splits, and upon a tongue of land there stands
An Inn with willow bowers: it is a spot
Where still the flavour of old Merry England
Lingers: And softly flowed the silver Thames
Beside the garden, while we fed the fish.
There ‘mid the twilight and the trellised roses
We sang the ballad of fair Rosamund:
And when at last we loosed the boat, we saw
Above the ruined Nunnery where she sleeps
A star: and from the reeds a mournful gust
Whispered and rippled around the shallow prow
And passed: and all was quiet.

The poem (by someone we confess we had never heard of: Gascoigne Mackie) features in that richest and most interesting of aquatic websites, Where Thames Smooth Waters Glide, compiled by the Reverend John Eade.

More familiar to modern ears is the liquid verse of Alice Oswald, Oxford University’s 46th Professor of Poetry. One of her superb public lectures (delivered during Lockdown and available online) is entitled An Interview with Water.

And for prose, who better than Peter Ackroyd? In his classic book Thames: Sacred River (p.413) he notes: ”There is a deep and irradiant blue in the depths of the water before Godstow Bridge.”

All of which is by way of pretext: a reminder of last year’s Morris Oxford post, A River Runs Through It, and an excuse to feature this uplifting, summery video from the Jericho Singers, directed by their multi-talented choir-leader, Steph Pirrie:

Bon voyage!

morris oxford favicon 64 - Rivers Run


Any watery topic gives us an excuse to mention the Jericho Singers and Rivers Run:
The evocative names of bathing places listed in the recent ‘Dive In’ exhibition at the Museum of Oxford, reminded us of a poem by the master sonneteer Malcolm Guite. We invited him to share it with us.

Whirley Pool, Sunnymead, Deep Martin … The evocative names catalogued in the Morris Oxford list of bathing places made me think of a book written by the nature writer Robert Macfarlane a while ago entitled The Lost Words. It’s about the everyday nature words jettisoned from the Oxford Junior Dictionary because they are no longer used by enough children to merit inclusion. Words like catkin, acorn, cowslip and otter, have been culled in order to make room for words like broadband, chatroom, and celebrity. For blackberry read Blackberry! For apple read Apple! I felt there was a poem waiting to be uttered just in the sheer listing and lost sounds in these lovely names, so I set them, as they were, and in their order, in this lament.

A Lament for Lost Words
To graceful names and lovely woods farewell
To acorn, adder, ash, to beech and bluebell,
Farewell old friends I name you in my sonnet
Buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet
Farewell, your fields are brick, our books are barren
No dandelion or fern, hazel or heron
We’ll go no more alone, no more together
The mountain thyme is gone and gone the heather
The clinging ivy‘s gone and soon to go
The kingfisher‘s blue bolt, the mistletoe
Nectar, newt, and otter, pasture, willow
To their last rites my muse comes footing slow
We’ll hear no more the heaven-scaling lark
We’ll all go down together in the dark.