I climb the hill: from end to end
Of all the landscape underneath,
I find no place that does not breathe
Some gracious memory of my friend;
No gray old grange, or lonely fold,
Or low morass and whispering reed,
Or simple stile from mead to mead,
Or sheepwalk up the windy wold;
Nor hoary knoll of ash and haw
That hears the latest linnet trill,
Nor quarry trench’d along the hill
And haunted by the wrangling daw;
Nor runlet tinkling from the rock;
Nor pastoral rivulet that swerves
To left and right thro’ meadowy curves,
That feed the mothers of the flock;
But each has pleased a kindred eye,
And each reflects a kindlier day;
And, leaving these, to pass away,
I think once more he seems to die.
Tennyson has written that his dead friend now sees himself in all he sees; here he sees that friend in all of the landscape around the family house. He was a keen observer of landscape as his language often shows; and a lover of it. Again here his love of natural things and of Hallam are mingled, even although Hallam himself is absent.
My late daughter was also my climbing buddy; therefore her memory is intertwined with mountain scenery from all over Scotland and elsewhere. She was good on the geology of landscape while I was better on birds and both of us reasonable on plants and trees.
I find the hills now very testing as her presence amongst them is sharp and often unexpected – this or that detail reminds me of her- so much so that I have sometimes found myself unable to continue a climb. Although I believe her to be in heaven, I cannot imagine her separated from these landscapes.
These landscapes…already they are not the landscapes I first knew 70 years ago. Many if the wild flowers have vanished, some of the birds and animals – the dotterel and the ptarmigan are making up their minds about the warmer hills, the water vole is struggling a against pollution, the badger is being hunted to preserve farm animals, and so on. The planetary ecosystem is being destroyed, so my mourning for my daughter – a fierce eco warrior- is accompanied by my mourning for the earth we shared. This destruction had begun in Tennyson’s time but hardly anyone was conscious of it.