I ride along this lonely lane
With eager eyes and ears that strain
To hear those well-loved sounds again:
The diesel’s drone, the seagulls’ cry –
The noises-off that signify
Spring fieldwork’s under way close by.
The John Deere drives four furrows through
The stubborn clay. I wonder who
Would stop to watch the work I do?
This one came to me, more-or-less fully-formed, on Tuesday’s bike ride: three tercets of iambic tetrameter, for those of a prosodical turn of mind. If I might crave your indulgence, it works best read aloud.
The finest, and probably most famous, example of this form is The Eagle, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson – a masterclass in conciseness (he needed only two tercets!) and deceptively simple language.
The image is an old one (so old I had to scan it from a print…) of my good friend Ebenezer driving a John Deere, with a four-furrow plough, near the village where I used to live. The tractor I actually heard on Tuesday was a Massey-Ferguson smashing up clods with a power-harrow. As well as being far less romantic, it neithers scans nor alliterates nearly so well – plus, it was too far from the road to photograph properly. This is why they invented poetic licence. N.