I spent a very enjoyable evening, sharing my passion for photography with members of Steyning Camera Club. Yet again I was overwhelmed by kind and warm welcome. One of the members kindly took me to the town afterwards to show me one of their beautiful gems – a medieval street lined with the 15th, 16th century houses as pretty as a picture. There is no doubt I will be back there. There is so much more to explore.
Since then I discovered this lovely poem, written by a young officer serving in France in the First World War. The simple words capture his love for his home country. It was printed under the name of Philip Johnson, but his real name was John Stanley Purvis who became Canon Purvis of York and internationally famous for his versions of the York mystery plays.
I can just imagine walking across sweeping downs of Sussex up to the ring of ancient trees of Chanctonbury. It is not that long ago since we walked that part of the South Downs Way, and the poem evokes exactly the same feeling as we experienced then.
I can’t forget the lane that goes from Steyning to the Ring
In summer time, and on the downs how larks and linnets sing
High in the sun. The wind comes off the sea, and oh, the air!
I never knew till now that life in old days was so fair.
But now I know it in this filthy rat-infested ditch,
Where every shell must kill or spare, and God alone knows which.
And I am made a beast of prey, and this trench is my lair –
My God, I never knew till now that those days were so fair,
And we assault in half-an-hour, and it’s a silly thing:
I can’t forget the lane that goes from Steyning to the Ring.
John Stanley Purvis