Poets Corner – Vine Cottage – Sydney Brand

I took a walk by Cranleigh
On Surrey’s lovely edge
To put the clock back thirty years
And see the windmill hedge
I was a boy at Cranleigh
And she was Heaven to me
How time had changed her mantle
I went again to see

I never walk by Cranleigh
But I can see a farm
That was my boyhood playground
And still retains its charm
A cottage set in beauty
A garden decked with flowers
The lowing of the cattle
An age of happy hours

A widow graced that cottage
A widow choice of kind
To whom came all and sundry
To borrow peace of mind
There was a chimney corner
Where she was wont to rest
And radiate her loveliness
A grandeur God had blessed

They came to her in trouble
They came to her in joy
She mothered all the village
From clerk to stable-boy
At night her sons and daughters
Would gather ‘round the fire
With chirping crickets joining in
The happy family choir

I walked again by Cranleigh
Where six elms skirt a lane
And Hascombe leaps to skyward
And puffs the Guildford train
From Tickner’s heath to Ewhurst
From Knowle to Winterfold
If trees could speak to humans
What stories could be told

I was a child at Cranleigh
And used to dream at night
That God stepped out from Heaven
And filled the place with light
For in a boyish wonder
I drew my future plan
Around the village fountain
And men like David Mann

I went again to Cranleigh
But she was ‘new’ and bare
The old folk had departed
The windmill was not there
I peeped across that farmstead
And fancied I could hear
From that old chimney corner
That widow’s words of cheer

Oh world – that had me roaming
From Brest to Cape Mackay
You cannot boast the sweetness
That grew on Cranleigh clay
Where Smithwood sent her children
Each holy Sabbath morn
(I’ve often heard those praises
From Norway to The Horn)

You miles – that count in thousands
I give you back your thrills
In part exchange for visions
Of Cranleigh’s peaceful hills
For you know not the music
That memory choice is mine
For we have heard the angels
Who lingered at “The Vine”

This poem was written by a grandchild of Jesse and Sabina Mann, Sydney Brand (born 1892), evidently in the 1920s. He is somewhere in the front row, aged 9

(Grateful thanks to Brian Cheesman for this poem)

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