friday feast: apples by laurie lee


Just for you, I picked this apple poem out of the barrel. The poet, Laurie Lee, grew up in the village of Slad, in Gloucestershire, England. That’s Cotswold country. (Sigh.) Yes, there is always a lot of sighing whenever I talk about England. 

I lived there for three years, and it wasn’t enough. I’d go back any day. The Cotswolds, with its honey colored stone cottages, thatched roofs, and gently rolling green hills, is as idyllic and “typically English” as any place could be. Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, and Jane Austen lived in Bath, the setting of several of her novels.

Laurie Lee’s first love was poetry, but he is better known for the first volume of his autobiographical trilogy, CIDER WITH ROSIE (1959), where he recounts his childhood in an innocent and much simpler time:

“‘It’s cider,’ she said. ‘You ain’t to drink it though. Not much of it, any rate.’ Huge and squat, the jar lay on the grass like an unexploded bomb. We lifted it up, unscrewed the stopper, and smelt the whiff of fermented apples. I held the jar to my mouth and rolled my eyes sideways, like a beast at a water-hole. ‘Go on,’ said Rosie. I took a deep breath . . .Never to be forgotten, that first long secret drink of golden fire, juice of those valleys and of that time, wine of wild orchards, of russet summer, of plump red apples, and Rosie’s burning cheeks. Never to be forgotten, or ever tasted again . . .”

Rosie the temptress, like Eve with the forbidden fruit?

In “Apples,” Lee, supposedly a very gentle and kind man, examines the cycles of nature and its beautiful efficiency, with the apple as a world within a world. A thing of wonder and beauty; hold it in your hand, turn it over, taste the sumptuous images in the poem.


by Laurie Lee

photo of my great-nephew, Harri, taken by his dad, Ian Dodge

Behold the apples’ rounded worlds:
juice-green of July rain,
the black polestar of flowers, the rind
mapped with its crimson stain.

The russet, crab and cottage red
burn to the sun’s hot brass,
then drop like sweat from every branch
and bubble in the grass.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Today’s Poetry Friday Roundup is at Kelly Fineman’s blog.

16 thoughts on “friday feast: apples by laurie lee

  1. I particularly like “the russet, crab and cottage red/burn to the sun’s hot brass…”
    And that photograph of your great-nephew! I love how he’s slightly smiling, but still so solemn in his gaze.
    Sara Lewis Holmes


  2. Jane did indeed live in Bath for a short while, but from all evidence, she didn’t like living there much – she was a country girl at heart, and preferred the more rural areas of Hampshire. I’m not sure what wasn’t to like – the bits I’ve seen in pictures and film look wonderful, and back then there was more greenery and open space and no industrialization!


  3. TadMack says:
    (Your great-nephew is really cute.)
    I love the imagery of an apple sunburnt and sweating into sweetness.


  4. You’re absolutely right. Austen lived in Bath less than five years, after her father retired. Maybe it was the “genteel society” she wrote about so brilliantly in her novels. I’ve never been to the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, but was lucky enough to visit the cottage in Chawton, where she spent the last 8 years of her life. I still remember the writing table in the front room where she wrote her final works. Cool beyond belief!


  5. Aloha!
    Jama: It’s so nice to see my great-grandson featured in your blog. After reading all the posts about apples, apple cider and apple pies, i bought a gallon of apple cider and some apple turnovers. your mom likes Fuji apples. Each year, this big, super-sweet, crisp apple gains new fans. The Fuji holds its texture when baked. It’s known for its hard texture and syrupy sweetness. …


  6. Re: Aloha!
    Auntie Jama, I couldn’t remember which photo of Harri my mother may have sent you, but what a surprise. I had forgotten how long his hair was. It is much shorter now. In fact, after several people praised me for having such a beautiful daughter, I asked if he’d like to have his hair cut. At first he refused. Then, I told him I’d buy him a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. I couldn’t get him to the barber shop quickly enough. It’s Harri’s eyes. They’re big, round, and placed between very long eye lashes. Well, you’ve inspired me and we’ll head out to apple picking country this month. Hood River is gorgeous this time of year. –Ian


  7. Re: Aloha!
    Harri’s photo enchanted me the minute I laid eyes on it. I’m so happy I finally found a way to share it with everyone. Have fun apple picking. Take more photos and send them along!! Nice to hear from you :).


  8. Re: Aloha!
    Jim and I were so pleased that you wanted to share Harri and his apple. Two days ago, we took Keenan and Melia and cousin Nikos to Hood River Valley to apple pick. ( they got to play hooky) We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful fall day, as crisp as the apples we picked. I have never seen an Ortney, but it is green and tastes very much like a Granny Smith, so I will be using them for one of my Thanksgiving pies this year. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Your Sis, Syl


  9. Re: Aloha!
    Welcome, Syl!
    I guess apple picking is as good a reason to play hooky as any! A perfect fall day, apples, loved ones — you created a lasting memory for all. Thanks for sharing!


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