A Shepherd’s Life by W.H.Hudson. (Little Toller Books)
reviewed by Colin Elford.
W.H. Hudson was a forward thinker, pondering on the destruction of the many ancient barrows found on the downs. “One wonders if the ever increasing curiosity of our day with regard to the history of the human race in the land continues to grow, what our descendants of the next half of the century, to go no further, will say of us and our incredible carelessness in the matter!”
As well as being an observant naturalist and philosopher Hudson was also a skilled people watcher, able to view situations and listen to the many tales told by local folk without being judgmental, although he did express his frustration at the lack of native wildlife in the woods and on the downs, sacrificed in the name of game rearing.
His heart would be glad to know that diamond tailed ravens have once more a stronghold over Caleb’s precious downs. I was deeply impressed with the spirit of the book, only a well written book like ” A Shepherd’s Life” allows you to walk unnoticed among the characters and wrap the cloak of period around you.
This is a paragraph that I found particularly inspiring:
All this- the far- removed events and periods in time – are not in the conscious mind when we are in the vale or when we are looking down on it from above: the mind is occupied with nothing but visible nature. Thus, when I am on the tomb, listening to the various sounds of life about me, attentive to the flowers and bees and butterflies, to man or woman or child taking a short cut through the churchyard, exchanging a few words with them; or when I am by the water close by, watching a little company of graylings, their delicately-shaded, silver-grey distinctly seen as they lie in the crystal current watching for flies; or when I listen to the perpetual musical talk and song combined of a family of green finches in the alders or willows, my mind is engaged with these things. But if one is familiar with the vale; if one has looked with interest and been deeply impressed with the signs and memorials of past life and antiquity everywhere present and forming part of the scene, something of it and of all that it represents remains in subconscious mind to give a significance and feeling to the scene, which affects us here more than in most places; and that, I take it, is the special charm of life in this valley.