They’re here, at last. I’ve missed them. As the days
Grow longer, so, like migrants, back they come
To bare, long-empty fields; the heavy hum
Of diesels drifting with the dust they raise.

The clay will not endure them with the rain
Of winter in it; dried by wind and sun
It welcomes them. Now there’s work to be done;
With share and tine they wake the land again.

The skylarks’ song, birds nesting in the wood
The lambs and daffodils, the flush of green
As buds appear – conventionally seen
As certain signs that Winter’s gone for good.

Me? In the rumble of a big John Deere,
The sudden stink of hot hydraulic oil
And sweet, sharp scent of rippling, fresh-ploughed soil
I feel the first deep stirrings of the year.

The teams of Shires and Clydesdales are long gone
And I lament their passing; but these new
And great beasts of the field complete my view
As underneath their wheels, the world rolls on.

18 thoughts on “Fieldwork

    • Yup – easy to be romantic about agriculture when you’re not the one doing it!! I manage to salve my conscience with the knowledge that I WAS that guy once, a long, long time ago…and sort-of wish I still was! N.

  1. Hi Nick,
    Lovely, what a nice Spring-poem. You do like tractors, don’t you? 🙂
    “Underneath their wheels the world rolls on….” Earth is all we are, and we should realise how much we depend on farmers!

    (Who is John Deere?)

    I was at a farm this morning, lots of new born lambs 🙂 I don’t want to know their future though. 😦

    best wishes

    • Thank you Ina – and yes, I do like tractors! John Deere was, presumably, a real person once, but today it’s one of the world’s biggest makers of tractors, conbine harvesters and other agricultural machinery: if you ever see a green tractor with bright yellow wheels, it’s a JD.

      I worked on a sheep farm when I was a student, and always had a soft spot for the lambs. I also found them delicious…I suppose it was easier to eat lamb on a Sunday after spending the week being kicked, trodded on, barged into, covered in muck, soaked, frozen and walking miles searching for them after they’d escaped!!


  2. The excitement of the spring season is captured so beautifully, it makes me want to travel over to England just to breath in the scent of that fresh-ploughed soil :).
    What I find so enthralling is that together with all the past poems I see a delicate imagery of the land that you so love flowing dynamically through time and seasons, and it is simply breathtaking.

    Ayano xxx.

    • Thank you so much, Ayano; although you wouldn’t really see it at its best today, as after some encouragingly warm and sunny days earlier in the week, the weather’s turned rather chilly and grey again. Spring can’t quite make up its mind whether it’s really here to stay yet, it seems!

      I’m so delighted by your comment; your response it’s everything I could hope for from these humble efforts of mine. N.xx

  3. Lovely atmospheric poem Nick.

    I have a friend who recently wrote, and recorded, a song about a Massey Ferguson tractor.

    Clearly romance does not die just because horses no longer work our fields.


    • Ah David, now that sounds like my kind of song..! If there’s an mp3, I’d love to hear it!

      It’s funny; horses are an absolute passion of mine as you know, and by rights I should resent tractors for displacing the traditional heavy breeds. But I’ve been fascinated by farm machinery since childhood – in the same way some fellows are captivated by trains, planes and cars, I suppose – and I still just love watching tractors at work. It stirs something very deep in me, for some reason; and I guess that’s what I’ve tried to express in this piece. N.

      • Now there’s a woman after my own heart; what a delightful song and video (yes the link did work – no idea how you did that!) Thank you so much, David: please pass on my congratulations and best wishes to Maggie – and tell her I’m a Fergie fan too…(although I’m really a 35X man myself!) N.

    • Ah, that’s lovely to hear, Christine – thank you so much. Sadly it’s not very spring-like here today; cold and grey and drizzly again…! Hope you’re feeling fully recovered from that nasty ol’ flu bug. N.x

    • Thank you John – I took the pic more than 20 years ago, so had to scan the print before I could post it here! How times change. It was that particular John Deere I had in mind too; at the wheel was an old friend (the only person I’ve ever known whose name really is Ebenezer) – he was head tractor-driver on the farm for over 40 years; now retired. N.

  4. A great poem, Nick! Spring is in the dirt behind the discs plowing the earth, unloosening the wet smell of winter past, and the great, lumbering tractors are spewing about their labor, and the cycle begins again, humans and earth, spring and planting, growth and long summer days, golden harvest and food to fill bellies for another year, and then winter again: The present forecasting into the future and the distant past echoing into the present into the future. There is all of this in your poem, singing in iambic pentameter and rhyme that is subtle enough to make a music as powerful as the poem’s sense and meaning. The land is awake! The world rolls on! The craft and art of it all!

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