The Conclusion of Joseph Turrill
Garsington, Oxfordshire, 1867
I suppose I was cut out for a quiet life;
whether I have managed any such thing
is another matter,
what with larks to shoot,
and harvesting, gooseberries, and whatnot.
Then there was all that with Netty:
would she or wouldn’t she;
did I or didn’t I?
It is my belief
I spent more hours kicking my heels at her gate
than happy the other side.
Be that as it may,
Anno Domini drives out stern matters of fact,
and faults that appear to us
when we compare the lives we have
with those we imagine…
There’s nothing a gentle stroll
in the woods by moonlight can’t put right.
I tried that just now.
I saw swallows on the branches like clothes pegs,
which put me in such good humour
I brought home one of their nests and also four chicks.
Andrew Motion (1952 –
Andrew Motion was the UK Poet Laureate prior to Carol Ann Duffy.
Anno Domini – Medieval Latin and means “in the year of the Lord”, but is often translated as “in the year of our Lord”.
The problem with this poem is that many readers may not know anything about Joseph Turrill. Google is always there to help. JT lived in the period 1841-1925 and he was an Oxfordshire market gardener and diarist.
Perhaps if you read his diaries knowledge of a conclusion might be evident. But without such knowledge this poem independently tells us something about his nature.
S1 … JT thought he was in for a quiet life being a market gardener and close to nature and all the associated work … but here is a lamentation … it is a very busy life with all that his job entails … perhaps overwhelmed with all the work in a busy time of the year … of note is the shooting of larks something that may have occurred in his day, not sure of the reason – perhaps a food delicacy? … but the main thrust is the lamentation that time is being taken away from him … a loss of the life he wanted … not a quiet life
S2 … a different lamentation a loss of time in all his wasted efforts in courting Netty … would she or wouldn’t she … facilitation in the development of a relationship … again the loss of the life he wanted … perhaps wanting the permanent relationship of marriage
S3 … this is the way it is so he must face reality against his mind imaginings of what he would like to happen … how he would like life to be … so to get over these feelings of annoyance with his life … the solution a walk into the woods under moonlight … the escape to be himself alone with nature (I think I can remember JC doing something like this in the bible – escaping into nature when frustrated with the crowds)
S4 … well it worked, and moreover he saw ‘swallows like clothes pegs on the branches’ an added bonus, he could take a nest of young birds back home … something which would abhor readers of today!
So the conclusion (or my thoughts) – have time to yourself alone with nature when stressed … but to what extend this helps recovery and the continuance of everyday life is another matter! … time to enjoy a little exercise outside!