Blue remembered hills

I wasn’t going to call it Not Your Heart Away. It started out being called No Returns but that looked much too much like something Bruce Willis would be happy to get his vest on for, one more time. Claire’s mum would have been impeccably icily polite, I think.

But then I remembered Housman’s poem, the same way Claire did. Unhappily I wasn’t sitting at a sunny dream-filled evening table outside the Red Lion, with the oak trees throwing their shadows over an Aston-Martin, but it doesn’t happen a lot, as Ben was to find out. I’d always wondered where the lines about blue remembered hills came from:

Into my heart an air that chills from yon far country blows

What are those blue remembered hill?

What spires? What farms are those?

That is the land of lost content. I see it shining plain.

The happy highways where I went 

And cannot come again.

It’s one of those comforting, unsettling lines that keeps on rattling around my head, filling it with the longing, the discontent and the flat, dead sense of loss. It was from A Shropshire Lad, which much as I’d hate to contradict the heroine of the book wasn’t written in Shropshire at all. Earlier in the poem the narrator gives advice to a young man, urging him not to give his heart away too soon, nor to fall in love at twenty, marry and find yourself out of love and in those days pretty much irrevocably married at twenty-one.

So really the title should have been But Not Your Heart Away. But that would have looked artificial, too long, nonsensical as a title and much too late for Ben anyway. Someone should have told him. Except Liz did.

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