As you may have noticed here, we really like to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, and I was thrilled to find out that today is the birthday of poet Laurie Lee (1914-1997), who’s not so well known here as he is in England. His most famous work is Cider with Rosie, about his childhood in the village of Slad, near Stroud in the Cotswolds, a place where people lived pretty much as previous inhabitants had for centuries–another great source for English rural life (the, ahem, Regency tie-in). After leaving the village for London and then Spain, where he fought in the civil war, Lee returned to England–he had a job writing propaganda during World War II (I think he was fired) and then settled in Slad where he lived for the rest of his life.
Here’s the beginning of Cider with Rosie:
The June grass, amongst which I stood, was taller than I was, and I wept. I had never been so close to grass before. It towered above me and all around me, each blade tattooed with tiger-skins of sunlight. It was knife-edged, dark, and a wicked green, thick as a forest and alive with grasshoppers that chirped and chattered and leapt though the air like monkeys.
I was lost and didn’t know where to move.
A tropic heat oozed up from the ground, rank with sharp odours of roots and nettles. Snow-clouds of elder-blossom banked in the sky, showering upon me the fumes and flakes of their sweet and giddy suffocation. High overhead ran frenzied larks, screaming, as though the sky were tearing apart.
If your local NPR affiliate carries A Writer’s Almanac, do listen to it. I hear it at about 6:35 each morning and it’s the signal for me that I really must get out of bed. The format is quite simple–a report on anniversaries/birthdays (with a strong emphasis on the literary), followed by a short poem. You can view today’s offering, Naming the Animals by Anthony Hecht, learn more about Laurie Lee, and browse the archives here.
Do you listen to this show? Have you read Laurie Lee? Are you a Garrison Keillor and/or A Prairie Home Companion fan?