All posts tagged Innisfree

Sep. 17th and 23rd 1943.
The Little Home.

I have a little home, my boyhoods home;

Not quaint, and old, and thatched with overhanging eaves;

Not timbered walls and tight-shut casements, low rooms and dark oak beams;

Nor yet so new and modern as the flat-roofed present style.

Just old enough to be familiar, homelike, edges worn a little smooth.

A tiny hall red-paved with polished tiles, that trip unwary feet,

And tempt the younger ones to steal a slide when mother’s back is turned.

A stairway that can’t quite make up its mind which way to go.

First it goes east, then takes a step towards the north,

No room to wander there so skirts the wall towards the west,

Then dawdles round the corner and ends due south upon a narrow landing.

Two doors are to the left with bedrooms facing early morn and setting sun.

A wee room to the right with bath and bowl, how many times

I’ve dried the bowl and pumped the water to the tank among the spars,

And fed the kitchen fire with wood to heat the water for the bath.

One door, the last one, leads to my little room beneath the sloping roof;

Warm in the winter with its tank, cool in summer with the western breeze.

The casement opens wide (I made those “blackouts” ere I came away).

The kitchen garden lies behind, with cabbages and bean-row,

I see the little square, now filled with wood, the salvage from the sea,

Just where my little tent, my “Innisfree”, was wont to stand in summer months
In there I slept while summer rain fell in the cool, dim, starlit nights, and “strafed” the beetles and the gnats

That on occasion joined me, and sometimes removed a cat,

That crept beneath the canvas and curled up upon my bed.

Beyond the garden a stretch of pasture, emerald green,

All gold in spring with buttercups and white with daisy and sheep;

Further afield the nodding corn and scattered farms.

A plume of smoke from our one chimney-stack, that marks the ‘modern dairy’,

Too far away to soil our clean sea breeze or fall in smuts, upon the washing day.

And then, beyond; the wolds the boundary of our view,

Far off they look to-day in mist of faintest blue

In the shimmering haze of memory’s summer heat.

At times they seem to travel nearer and we see

The fields, laid out in squares, like patch-work,

With feather-stitch of hedges bordered round.

Trees and little wood stand etched upon the crest,

A long white road winds up the slopes away into the west.

We know that rain is coming when the wolds are near,

And the clattering sound of the distant train we hear.

In front a little lawn, all daisies in the spring,

With diamond flower-bed where grows

Carnation and anemones and wee pink rose.

A little path leads from the door, past the wide bay window of “the room”.

The long dim room, with well-worn chairs,

Books and piano, games and shabby carpet on the floor.

Cool on summer afternoons, warm in winter with fires of drift-wood from the sea.

Thro’ the gates, (half doors), over the narrow road,

Sand-hills rise to part us from the sandy shore.

Down every path we scramble up cascades of sand, slide down

As on the top we turn and stand;

We view the miles of green and sunlit land,

And the little house that nestles ’neath the shadow of the hills,

In sound of the restless waves that the air with music fills.

'Lenton Lodge', Anderby Road, near Chapel Point

‘Lenton Lodge’, Anderby Road, near Chapel Point

'Sunny Side', the roadside part of a divided farmhouse in South Road

‘Sunny Side’, the roadside part of a divided farmhouse in South Road

May obviously wrote this poem for Ron who would often be thinking of home. Several drafts showed that the title changed from ‘My Old House’ to ‘The Little House’, which then became ‘The Little Home’. The house is clearly ‘Lenton Lodge’, the family home at the time of writing, although the poem relies upon a certain amount of ‘poetic licence’. Ron was already in his late teens when the family moved there from ‘Sunny Side’, a rented part of a farmhouse on the other side of the village centre, where Ron would have erected his tent in the garden at a younger age (see Village Map). ‘Innisfree’ is a reference to a private cabin depicted in the poem ‘Lake Isle of Innisfree’ by WB Yeats.

The poem has been added to the poems collection on this site. It also appears in the book The Casualties Were Small which contains over twenty of May’s poems as well as selected diary extracts, including those which suggest the background to each poem, accompanied by many nostalgic photographs.

Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?