Found a photo from Port Meadow in Oxfordshire that I first thought was the actual poplars that Hopkins wrote about in his poem Binsey Poplars. The Binsey poplars where felled in 1879.

After a bit more research I found that Port Meadow is just beside Binsey. The Thames divide them. So it seems that these poplars where very very close, but is not the actual ones. After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.

The photograph is a picture of a similar copse, in the same area, in about the same time – as in the wonderful poem Binsey Poplars (see below) by Gerard Manley Hopkins S.J.


In the photograph you can see two young schoolgirls. They are crossing a small bridge over a stream in Port Meadow sometime between 1860 to 1922. (This is the time when the photographer Henry Taunt was active and the photograph must have been taken). *

Schoolgirls at Port Meadow



    MY aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
    Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
    All felled, felled, all are felled;
    Of a fresh and following folded rank
    Not spared, not one
    That dandled a sandalled
    Shadow that swam or sank
    On meadow and river and wind-wandering
    weed-winding bank.
    O if we knew but what we do
    When we delve or hew–
    Hack and rack the growing green!
    Since country is so tender
    To touch her, being so slender,
    That, like this sleek and seeing ball
    But a prick will make no eye at all,
    Where we, even when we mean
    to mend her we end her,
    When we hew or delve:
    After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
    Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
    Strokes of havoc unselve
    The sweet especial scene,
    Rural scene, a rural scene,
    Sweet especial rural scene.

* The photograph can be found at The English Heritage NMR. The reference number is BB72/06698. You can see some more recent photographs of the area here: Oxfordinciter