Good Friday

London to Guildford

I HAD planned to start on March 21, and rather late than early, to give the road time for drying. The light arrived bravely and innocently enough at sunrise; too bravely, for by eight o’clock it was already abashed by a shower. There could be no doubt that either I must wait for a better day, or at the next convenient fine interval I must pretend to be deceived and set out prepared for all things. So at ten I started, with maps and sufficient clothes to replace what my waterproof could not protect from rain.

Bridge at Leatherhead


“Four streams: whose whole delight in island lawns,
Dark-hanging alder dusks and willows pale
O’er shining gray-green shadowed waterways,
Makes murmuring haste of exit from the vale—
Through fourteen arches voluble
Where river tide-weed sways.” . . .

As I looked this time from Leatherhead Bridge, I recalled “Aphrodite at Leatherhead,” and these, its opening lines, by John Helston, the town’s second poet. It is no new thing to stop on the bridge and look up the river to the railway bridge, and down over the divided water to the level grass, the tossing willows, the tall poplars scattered upon it, the dark elms beside, and Leatherhead rising up from it to the flint tower of St. Mary and St. Nicholas..The bridge is good in itself, and the better for this view and for the poem. The adjacent inn, the “Running Horse,” and Elinour Rumming who brewed ale there and sold it to travellers—

“Tinkers and sweaters and swinkers
And all good ale-drinkers”—

four hundred years ago, these were the theme of a poet, Henry the Eighth’s laureate, John Skelton.
 

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