Monday, February 19, 2007

Peer into the past

Of times on Liddington's bare peak I love to think and lie,
And muse upon the former day and ancient things gone by,
To pace the old castellum walls and peer into the past,
To learn the secret of the hills, and know myself at last,
To woo Dick Jefferies from his dreams on sorrow's pillow tossed,
And walk with him upon the ridge, and pacify his ghost.

Alfred Williams (1877-1930)

1 comment:

Littlestone said...

Alfred Williams was a local Swindon writer and poet, and friend of Richard Jefferies. Born in 1877, Williams was the fifth of eight children and the son of a carpenter and farmer's daughter.

"His education was poor, despite his mother's efforts. When he was only eight he became a 'half-timer', working part of the day on a farm and the rest at school, and left school altogether three years later to become a farm labourer. This suited his love of the countryside, but, as with many young men in the Swindon area at this time, the prospect of much better pay at the GWR railway factory easily persuaded him to go 'inside' when he was fifteen. Two of his brothers were already employed at the factory, four miles away, and he, too, made the daily walk into town.

"Alfred's heart, though, was always in the countryside and he spent time learning its ways and painting its landscapes. He was also determined to educate himself and in 1897 began reading in earnest, even utilising his dinner hour, to the amusement of his colleagues at the factory. In 1900 he embarked on a four-year English Literature course with Ruskin Hall, Oxford, even learning Latin to aid his studies.

"Fascinated by the country, at one stage he moved to Ranikhet, within sight of Mount Everest and his experiences refuelled his thirst for writing. He even considered settling in India, but returned to South Marston in 1919 - to a life of poverty. Only a grant from the Royal Literary Fund helped him through these difficult times.

"Now almost forgotten as a writer, Alfred still had not lost the taste for all the things he had done before. He continued to write, publishing 'Round about the Upper Thames' and 'Folk Songs of the Upper Thames' and taught himself a new language - Sanskrit."*