Alexander Mann - Burning Couch Grass 1902
For some reason I was thinking about patches of burnt soil on Salisbury Plain and remembering the autumnal smoke from piles of burning couch grass. I can only just remember the tedious chore of harrowing and harrowing the thin soil to gather up every rhizome of couch and then burning them in piles. And then forking the edges of the slow burning piles of root and soil in to ensure it all died.
The arrival of Round-Up herbicide put an end to what was seen as an eternal chore.
I wonder if at the edge of any of the large fields on the Plain the circular burnt patches show up still?
Thomas Hardy during the First World War used the unchanging job as a symbol of unchanging life.
In Time of `The Breaking of Nations`
Only a man harrowing clods
In a slow silent walk
With a horse that stumbles and nods
Half asleep as they stalk.
Only thin smoke without flame
From the heaps of couch-grass;
Yet this will go onward the same
Though the Dynasties pass.
Yonder a maid and her wight
Come whispering by:
War`s annals will cloud into night
Ere their story die.
Thomas Hardy (1840 - 1928)