The Old Vicarage, Grantchester

Original Text: 
1914 & other Poems (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1915): 59-63. PR 6003 R4N5 copy 2 Robarts Library
2All before my little room;
3And in my flower-beds, I think,
4Smile the carnation and the pink;
5And down the borders, well I know,
6The poppy and the pansy blow ...
7Oh! there the chestnuts, summer through,
9A tunnel of green gloom, and sleep
10Deeply above; and green and deep
11The stream mysterious glides beneath,
12Green as a dream and deep as death.
13-- Oh, damn! I know it! and I know
14How the May fields all golden show,
15And when the day is young and sweet,
16Gild gloriously the bare feet
17That run to bathe ...
19Here am I, sweating, sick, and hot,
20And there the shadowed waters fresh
21Lean up to embrace the naked flesh.
23Drink beer around; -- and there the dews
24Are soft beneath a morn of gold.
25Here tulips bloom as they are told;
26Unkempt about those hedges blows
27An English unofficial rose;
28And there the unregulated sun
29Slopes down to rest when day is done,
30And wakes a vague unpunctual star,
35In Grantchester, in Grantchester! --
36Some, it may be, can get in touch
37With Nature there, or Earth, or such.
38And clever modern men have seen
39A Faun a-peeping through the green,
40And felt the Classics were not dead,
43But these are things I do not know.
44I only know that you may lie
45Day long and watch the Cambridge sky,
46And, flower-lulled in sleepy grass,
47Hear the cool lapse of hours pass,
48Until the centuries blend and blur
49In Grantchester, in Grantchester. ...
50Still in the dawnlit waters cool
52And tries the strokes, essays the tricks,
55Chatter beneath a phantom mill.
57How Cambridge waters hurry by ...
58And in that garden, black and white,
59Creep whispers through the grass all night;
60And spectral dance, before the dawn,
61A hundred Vicars down the lawn;
62Curates, long dust, will come and go
64And oft between the boughs is seen
65The sly shade of a Rural Dean ...
66Till, at a shiver in the skies,
67Vanishing the Satanic cries,
68The prim ecclesiastic rout
69Leaves but a startled sleeper-out,
70Grey heavens, the first bird's drowsy calls,
71The falling house that never falls.
72God! I will pack, and take a train,
73And get me to England once again!
74For England's the one land, I know,
75Where men with Splendid Hearts may go;
76And Cambridgeshire, of all England,
77The shire for Men who Understand;
78And of that district I prefer
79The lovely hamlet Grantchester.
80For Cambridge people rarely smile,
81Being urban, squat, and packed with guile;
83Are black and fierce and strange of mouth;
89Have twisted lips and twisted hearts,
91And Coton's full of nameless crimes,
92And things are done you'd not believe
94Strong men have run for miles and miles,
96Strong men have blanched, and shot their wives,
98Strong men have cried like babes, bydam,
100But Grantchester! ah, Grantchester!
101There's peace and holy quiet there,
102Great clouds along pacific skies,
103And men and women with straight eyes,
104Lithe children lovelier than a dream,
106And little kindly winds that creep
107Round twilight corners, half asleep.
108In Grantchester their skins are white;
109They bathe by day, they bathe by night;
110The women there do all they ought;
111The men observe the Rules of Thought.
112They love the Good; they worship Truth;
113They laugh uproariously in youth;
114(And when they get to feeling old,
115They up and shoot themselves, I'm told) ...
116Ah God! to see the branches stir
117Across the moon at Grantchester!
118To smell the thrilling-sweet and rotten
119Unforgettable, unforgotten
120River-smell, and hear the breeze
121Sobbing in the little trees.
122Say, do the elm-clumps greatly stand
123Still guardians of that holy land?
124The chestnuts shade, in reverend dream,
125The yet unacademic stream?
126Is dawn a secret shy and cold
128And sunset still a golden sea
129From Haslingfield to Madingley?
130And after, ere the night is born,
131Do hares come out about the corn?
132Oh, is the water sweet and cool,
133Gentle and brown, above the pool?
134And laughs the immortal river still
135Under the mill, under the mill?
136Say, is there Beauty yet to find?
137And Certainty? and Quiet kind?
138Deep meadows yet, for to forget
139The lies, and truths, and pain? ... oh! yet
140Stands the Church clock at ten to three?


0] Professor R. M. H. Shepherd, Department of Classics, University College, Toronto, has contributed generously to make the notes for this poem both complete and accurate. Back to Line
1] The Café des Westens, a gathering-place for artists, stood "at a cross-roads near the station in Charlottenburg called the Zoo" (Christopher Hassall, Rupert Brooke: A Biography [London: Faber and Faber, 1964]: 339; PR 6003 R4 Z67 Robarts Library).
Brooke lived at the Old Vicarage, a three-storey red-brick house in Grantchester, a village about four kilometres southwest of Cambridge. Back to Line
8] the river: the Granta is a smallish tributary stream that enters the larger Camwell to the south of Grantchester, near the Shelfords: thus the river that flows north to Cambridge after passing between Grantchester and Trumpington is strictly speaking the Cam but is miscalled Granta until it enters Cambridge. Back to Line
18] "Dear God!" (German). Back to Line
22] Temperamentvoll: high-spirited (German). Back to Line
31] Hesper: the evening star (Venus). Back to Line
32] Haslingfield: a village eight kilometres southwest of Cambridge. For information about the small Cambridge-vicinity villages that Brooke enumerates here, see Denis Cheason's The Cambridgeshire of Rupert Brooke: An Illustrated Guide (Waterbeach: D. Cheason, 1980; DA 670 C2C5 Robarts Library).
Coton: a village four kilometres west of Cambridge. Back to Line
33] das Betreten's not verboten: entering is not forbidden (German). Back to Line
34] eithe genoimen: literally "if only I could be" (Greek; the original characters are transliterated into the Roman alphabet in this edition), an expression Brooke translates in the second half of the line as "would I were." Back to Line
41] Naiad: water nymph in classical myth. Back to Line
42] Goat-foot: Pan with his reed-pipe. Back to Line
51] His ghostly Lordship: Lord Byron, a Cambridge student, gave his name to "Byron's Pool," which is just outside Grantchester at the local road that crosses the Granta to Trumpington. Cf. John Lehmann, Rupert Brooke: His Life and Legend (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1980): 48. Back to Line
53] Hellespont: the Dardanelles, a strait linking the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmara in Turkey that Byron swam in 1809.
Styx: the river over which the dead are ferried into Hades. Back to Line
54] Dan Chaucer: Geoffrey Chaucer, who set the bawdy Reeve's Tale just outside Cambridge, at its boundary with Grantchester, where a great mill stood then and where one still existedwhen Brooke wrote this poem. The term "Dan" is an honorific. Back to Line
56] Tennyson: Alfred lord Tennyson, poet laureate during much of the Victorian period. Back to Line
63] lissom: lithe. Back to Line
82] Royston: a town twenty kilometres southwest of Cambridge. Back to Line
84] Over: a village fourteen kilometres northwest of Cambridge. Back to Line
85] Trumpington: once a village, now a suburb of Cambridge to the eastof the Granta. All the places named here were villages in Brooke's day, not parts of suburban Cambridge. Back to Line
86] Ditton: Green Ditton and Little Ditton are villages five kilometres southwest of Cambridge. Back to Line
87] Harston: a village nine kilometres southwest of Cambridge. Back to Line
88] Shelford: Great and Little Shelford, twin villages, now suburban, seven kilometres south of Cambridge on opposite sides of the Cam. Back to Line
90] Barton: a village five kilometres southwest of Cambridge.
Cockney rhymes: bad rhymes (i.e., true only if one speaksthe working-class dialect of east London). Back to Line
93] Madingley: a village six kilometres northwest of Cambridge. Back to Line
95] Cherry Hinton: a former village, now absorbed by Cambridge. Back to Line
97] St. Ives: a town on the Ouse River, about twenty kilometres northwest of Cambridge. Back to Line
99] Babraham: a village eleven kilometres southeast of Cambridge. Back to Line
105] bosky: woody. Back to Line
127] Anadyomene: Aphrodite (Roman Venus) rising from the sea as depicted by the classical painter Apelles. "Anadyomene" is a Greek participle and the full phrase is "Aphrodite Anadyomene." "APHROS" is Greek for 'foam,' and so the Greeks saw it in the name "Aphrodite" in view of her birth-myth. Back to Line
141] The Neeses, who lived at the Old Heritage, kept beehives on the property (Hassall, p. 263). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
"Fragments from a Poem to be entitled `The Sentimental Exile,'" Basileon B 14 (June 1912): 3-4; The Poetry Review 1.11 (Nov. 1912)
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1999.