This poem was shared by David Kershaw of Stranraer, Scotland to Simon Fairlie of The Scythe Shop, who kindly forwarded it to us.
Simply referring to it as “beautiful” wouldn’t do it justice; this poem is much more than that — a many-layered chronicle, the understanding of which will deepen progressively as you put more hours in the meadow behind that scythe…
“It occurs to me that you may not know this poem, which has been out of print for many years.” –David Kershaw, Stranraer, Scotland
The Scythe, by Stanley Snaith
This morning as the scythe swung in my grasp
I thought of the sinewy craft my fathers plied,
Those men whose hedgerow name has come to me,
Those soil-bred Yorkshiremen who fashioned snathes.
They lopped and barked and seasoned the leafy staff
To bear the blade with balance. There is a stern
Puritan cleanness in a true-made scythe.
A scythe purges the hands of awkwardness.
It has its own instinct, a subtle weighting
That pulls it round in a rich curve of motion;
And when the steel, fined to a creepy edge,
Rips and rings through the stalks, and the swath sighs over,
And the cropped circle widens at each stroke,
What a singing power flows from the hands!
The old rhythm came smoothly to my wrist.
I seemed to feel my ancestry move within me.
Four though I left their soil, I found a craft
Nourished with a tradition choice as theirs:
They toiled in wood, I curb the grain of words,
Both winning grace and service from what’s wild,
Scythe and sentence share one craftsmanship.
[From Stanley Snaith’s collection of poems Green Legacy, Jonathan Cape, 1937. Snaith was born in Kendal, and worked as a Librarian in Bethnal Green, London.