The Brangwens had lived for generations on the Marsh Farm, in the meadow_here the Erewash twisted sluggishly through alder trees, separatin_erbyshire from Nottinghamshire. Two miles away, a church-tower stood on _ill, the houses of the little country town climbing assiduously up to it.
Whenever one of the Brangwens in the fields lifted his head from his work, h_aw the church-tower at Ilkeston in the empty sky. So that as he turned agai_o the horizontal land, he was aware of something standing above him an_eyond him in the distance.
There was a look in the eyes of the Brangwens as if they were expectin_omething unknown, about which they were eager. They had that air of readines_or what would come to them, a kind of surety, an expectancy, the look of a_nheritor.
They were fresh, blond, slow-speaking people, revealing themselves plainly,
but slowly, so that one could watch the change in their eyes from laughter t_nger, blue, lit-up laughter, to a hard blue-staring anger; through all th_rresolute stages of the sky when the weather is changing.
Living on rich land, on their own land, near to a growing town, they ha_orgotten what it was to be in straitened circumstances. They had never becom_ich, because there were always children, and the patrimony was divided ever_ime. But always, at the Marsh, there was ample.
So the Brangwens came and went without fear of necessity, working hard becaus_f the life that was in them, not for want of the money. Neither were the_hriftless. They were aware of the last halfpenny, and instinct made them no_aste the peeling of their apple, for it would help to feed the cattle. Bu_eaven and earth was teeming around them, and how should this cease? They fel_he rush of the sap in spring, they knew the wave which cannot halt, but ever_ear throws forward the seed to begetting, and, falling back, leaves th_oung-born on the earth. They knew the intercourse between heaven and earth,
sunshine drawn into the breast and bowels, the rain sucked up in the daytime,
nakedness that comes under the wind in autumn, showing the birds' nests n_onger worth hiding. Their life and interrelations were such; feeling th_ulse and body of the soil, that opened to their furrow for the grain, an_ecame smooth and supple after their ploughing, and clung to their feet with _eight that pulled like desire, lying hard and unresponsive when the crop_ere to be shorn away. The young corn waved and was silken, and the lustr_lid along the limbs of the men who saw it. They took the udder of the cows,
the cows yielded milk and pulse against the hands of the men, the pulse of th_lood of the teats of the cows beat into the pulse of the hands of the men.
They mounted their horses, and held life between the grip of their knees, the_arnessed their horses at the wagon, and, with hand on the bridle-rings, dre_he heaving of the horses after their will.
In autumn the partridges whirred up, birds in flocks blew like spray acros_he fallow, rooks appeared on the grey, watery heavens, and flew cawing int_he winter. Then the men sat by the fire in the house where the women move_bout with surety, and the limbs and the body of the men were impregnated wit_he day, cattle and earth and vegetation and the sky, the men sat by the fir_nd their brains were inert, as their blood flowed heavy with the accumulatio_rom the living day.
The women were different. On them too was the drowse of blood-intimacy, calve_ucking and hens running together in droves, and young geese palpitating i_he hand while the food was pushed down their throttle. But the women looke_ut from the heated, blind intercourse of farm-life, to the spoken worl_eyond. They were aware of the lips and the mind of the world speaking an_iving utterance, they heard the sound in the distance, and they strained t_isten.
It was enough for the men, that the earth heaved and opened its furrow t_hem, that the wind blew to dry the wet wheat, and set the young ears of cor_heeling freshly round about; it was enough that they helped the cow i_abour, or ferreted the rats from under the barn, or broke the back of _abbit with a sharp knock of the hand. So much warmth and generating and pai_nd death did they know in their blood, earth and sky and beast and gree_lants, so much exchange and interchange they had with these, that they live_ull and surcharged, their senses full fed, their faces always turned to th_eat of the blood, staring into the sun, dazed with looking towards the sourc_f generation, unable to turn round.
But the woman wanted another form of life than this, something that was no_lood-intimacy. Her house faced out from the farm-buildings and fields, looke_ut to the road and the village with church and Hall and the world beyond. Sh_tood to see the far-off world of cities and governments and the active scop_f man, the magic land to her, where secrets were made known and desire_ulfilled. She faced outwards to where men moved dominant and creative, havin_urned their back on the pulsing heat of creation, and with this behind them,
were set out to discover what was beyond, to enlarge their own scope and rang_nd freedom; whereas the Brangwen men faced inwards to the teeming life o_reation, which poured unresolved into their veins.
Looking out, as she must, from the front of her house towards the activity o_an in the world at large, whilst her husband looked out to the back at sk_nd harvest and beast and land, she strained her eyes to see what man had don_n fighting outwards to knowledge, she strained to hear how he uttered himsel_n his conquest, her deepest desire hung on the battle that she heard, fa_ff, being waged on the edge of the unknown. She also wanted to know, and t_e of the fighting host.
At home, even so near as Cossethay, was the vicar, who spoke the other, magi_anguage, and had the other, finer bearing, both of which she could perceive,
but could never attain to. The vicar moved in worlds beyond where her ow_enfolk existed. Did she not know her own menfolk: fresh, slow, full-buil_en, masterful enough, but easy, native to the earth, lacking outwardness an_ange of motion. Whereas the vicar, dark and dry and small beside her husband,
had yet a quickness and a range of being that made Brangwen, in his larg_eniality, seem dull and local. She knew her husband. But in the vicar'_ature was that which passed beyond her knowledge. As Brangwen had power ove_he cattle so the vicar had power over her husband. What was it in the vicar,
that raised him above the common men as man is raised above the beast? Sh_raved to know. She craved to achieve this higher being, if not in herself,
then in her children. That which makes a man strong even if he be little an_rail in body, just as any man is little and frail beside a bull, and ye_tronger than the bull, what was it? It was not money nor power nor position.
What power had the vicar over Tom Brangwen-none. Yet strip them and set the_n a desert island, and the vicar was the master. His soul was master of th_ther man's. And why-why? She decided it was a question of knowledge.
The curate was poor enough, and not very efficacious as a man, either, yet h_ook rank with those others, the superior. She watched his children bein_orn, she saw them running as tiny things beside their mother. And alread_hey were separate from her own children, distinct. Why were her own childre_arked below the others? Why should the curate's children inevitably tak_recedence over her children, why should dominance be given them from th_tart? It was not money, nor even class. It was education and experience, sh_ecided.
It was this, this education, this higher form of being, that the mother wishe_o give to her children, so that they too could live the supreme life o_arth. For her children, at least the children of her heart, had the complet_ature that should take place in equality with the living, vital people in th_and, not be left behind obscure among the labourers. Why must they remai_bscured and stifled all their lives, why should they suffer from lack o_reedom to move? How should they learn the entry into the finer, more vivi_ircle of life?
Her imagination was fired by the squire's lady at Shelly Hall, who came t_hurch at Cossethay with her little children, girls in tidy capes of beave_ur, and smart little hats, herself like a winter rose, so fair and delicate.
So fair, so fine in mould, so luminous, what was it that Mrs. Hardy felt whic_he, Mrs. Brangwen, did not feel? How was Mrs. Hardy's nature different fro_hat of the common women of Cossethay, in what was it beyond them? All th_omen of Cossethay talked eagerly about Mrs. Hardy, of her husband, he_hildren, her guests, her dress, of her servants and her housekeeping. Th_ady of the Hall was the living dream of their lives, her life was the epi_hat inspired their lives. In her they lived imaginatively, and in gossipin_f her husband who drank, of her scandalous brother, of Lord William Bentle_er friend, member of Parliament for the division, they had their own Odysse_nacting itself, Penelope and Ulysses before them, and Circe and the swine an_he endless web.
So the women of the village were fortunate. They saw themselves in the lady o_he manor, each of them lived her own fulfilment of the life of Mrs. Hardy.
And the Brangwen wife of the Marsh aspired beyond herself, towards the furthe_ife of the finer woman, towards the extended being she revealed, as _raveller in his self-contained manner reveals far-off countries present i_imself. But why should a knowledge of far-off countries make a man's life _ifferent thing, finer, bigger? And why is a man more than the beast and th_attle that serve him? It is the same thing.
The male part of the poem was filled in by such men as the vicar and Lor_illiam, lean, eager men with strange movements, men who had command of th_urther fields, whose lives ranged over a great extent. Ah, it was somethin_ery desirable to know, this touch of the wonderful men who had the power o_hought and comprehension. The women of the village might be much fonder o_om Brangwen, and more at their ease with him, yet if their lives had bee_obbed of the vicar, and of Lord William, the leading shoot would have bee_ut away from them, they would have been heavy and uninspired and inclined t_ate. So long as the wonder of the beyond was before them, they could ge_long, whatever their lot. And Mrs. Hardy, and the vicar, and Lord William,
these moved in the wonder of the beyond, and were visible to the eyes o_ossethay in their motion.