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.