Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Very Many People

My grandparents lived for a while in Rottingdean- not in the village itself- which I don't believe I've ever visited before- but in a bungalow on the cliffs over Saltdean way. We went looking for the house yesterday, but I couldn't remember the address and there are many, many streets of bungalows, so we didn't find it. I can't pretend we tried very hard. This morning I tried again on Google Earth and I've narrowed the search. It could be the house with the Vote Tory poster by the front gate or it could have been the house next door that has been demolished. I picture it in my mind's eye as Beverley Hills palatial but these properties have shrunk in size and grandeur since I was a kid and are now rather mean and pokey.  I wouldn't want to live there- which is just as well because the sea view puts everything on the street well beyond our financial reach. Not so very long ago Rottingdean and Saltdean and Peacehaven would have been windswept chalk hillside, populated, if at all, by the lovelorn shepherds the Copper family sing about, but then, starting after the Great War (homes fit for heroes and all that) the developers were turned loose.

Kipling- writing in 1926- was sour about it.

On the Downs, in the Weald, on the Marshes, 
1 heard the Old Gods say:
"Here come Very Many People: 
"We must go away.

"They take our land to delight in,
"But their delight destroys.
"They flay the turf from the sheep-walk. 
"They load the Denes with noise. 

"They burn coal in the woodland. 
"They seize the oast and the mill. 
"They camp beside Our dew-ponds. 
"They mar the clean-flanked hill. 

"They string a clamorous Magic
"To fence their souls from thought, 
"Till Our deep-breathed Oaks are silent, 
"And Our muttering Downs tell nought. 

"They comfort themselves with neighbours. 
"They cannot bide alone.
"It shall be best for their doings 
"When We Old Gods are gone." 

Farewell to the Downs and the Marshes, 
And the Weald and the Forest known 
Before there were Very Many People, 
And the Old Gods had gone! 
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