Oak and Olive

Original Text: 
Collected Poems, ed. J. C. Squire (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1916): 176-78. PR 6011 L4A17 Robarts Library
1Though I was born a Londoner,
2    And bred in Gloucestershire,
4    With friends in white attire:
5And I remember how my soul
6    Drank wine as pure as fire.
8    I can forget to hear
9The crash of all those smoking wheels,
10    When those cold flutes and clear
11Pipe with such fury down the street,
12    My hands grow moist with fear.
14    No more I dare to tread,
15For all the stone men shout at me
16    And swear they are not dead;
17And once I touched a broken girl
18    And knew that marble bled.
19But when I walk in Athens town
20    That swims in dust and sun
21Perverse, I think of London then
22    Where massive work is done,
24    The rayless waters run.
25I ponder how from Attic seed
26    There grew an English tree,
28    Fighting a country free,
30    The kiss of Poetry.
32    Back to his pipes and power,
34    And searching hour on hour
35Found out old gardens, where the wise
36    May pluck a Spartan flower.
38    My friends are deaf and blind:
39Fast as they turn their foolish eyes
41And when I hear the fire-winged feet,
42    They only hear the wind.
43Have I not chased the fluting Pan
46    With a nymph upon my knees,
47And she as rosy as the dawn,
48    And naked as the breeze?
49But when I lie in Grecian fields,
51Or climb the blue and barren hills,
52    Or sing in woods that smell
53With such hot spices of the South
54    As mariners might sell --
55Then my heart turns where no sun burns,
56    To lands of glittering rain,
57To fields beneath low-clouded skies
58    New-widowed of their grain,
59And Autumn leaves like blood and gold
60    That strew a Gloucester lane.
61Oh well I know sweet Hellas now,
62    And well I knew it then,
63When I with starry lads walked out --
64    But ah, for home again!
65Was I not bred in Gloucestershire,
66    One of the Englishmen!


3] Hellas: Greece. Back to Line
7] Charing Cross: a London street known as the place for secondhand booksellers, but Flecker refers to the Cross itself, standing before Charing Cross railway station. The Cross, a replica of the last of a dozen crosses that marked the stations of the funeral procession of Eleanor of Castile, late queen of Edward I, in 1290, is traditionally the location from which all British road distances to London are measured. And do the "smoking wheels" of line 9 belong to a train? (Thanks to Anne Harper for her assistance with this note.) Back to Line
13] a hall in Bloomsbury: a square and a district in west London where the British Museum, then also the British Library, was found. Back to Line
23] Westminster: west of the City of London, along the Thames. Back to Line
27] Byron: Lord Byron, the English romantic poet. Back to Line
29] Swinburne: Algernon Charles Swinburne, the English Victorian poet.
Shelley: Percy Bysshe Shelley, the English romantic poet who died of drowning in 1822. Back to Line
31] Pan: god of shepherds and huntsmen, half-man, half-goat. Back to Line
33] Great Verrall: Arthur Woollgar Verrall (1851-1912), classical scholar, editor, and translator of Aeschylus and Euripides. Back to Line
37] Gloucester: English city on the Severn river in south-west central England. Back to Line
40] Mænads: baccantes, women who took part in orgiastic Dionysian rites (the subject of one of Verrall's books). Back to Line
44] Cranham: village just southeast of Gloucester. Back to Line
45] Painswick: Cotswold town northeast of Stroud in Gloucestershire, the site of a Roman villa. Back to Line
50] asphodel: perennial herb of the lily family. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
The Golden Journey to Samarkand (London, M. Goschen, 1913; del F553 G65 1913a Fisher Rare Book Library)
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1999.