Swans, Bridges, Feudalism and Modernity: From Newbridge to Oxford

The Windrush joins the Thames at Newbridge,
Flowing beneath the elegant Taynton stone bridge,
Once a port of call for that Burford quarried stone
On its way to Oxford and London,
As well as a defeat for the Parliamentarians …
The sight of so many swans gliding on the waters,
So close to King Charles’ Oxford,
With their mute depiction of feudal hierarchy:
These birds are for monarchs old and new, not
‘Yoemen and husbandmen and other persons of little reputation’;
A heron interrupted the flow of my thoughts down stream
To Hart’s Weir footbridge – more English quaintness:
The weir has gone, but a right of way remains to Erewhon;
Then Northmoor Lock, before reaching literary Bablock Hythe:
Matthew Arnold’s scholar-gypsy,
‘Oft was met crossing the stripling Thames at Bab-lock-hythe,
Trailing in the cool stream thy fingers wet,
As the punt’s rope chops round’;
None of that now at the Ferryman Inn and its chalet purlieus,
Instead a meander inland before returning to the waters
At Pinkhill Weir, before another short roadside detour,
And a boatyard and chandlers and a stride to Swinford Bridge
Where feudalism and modernity meet:
A toll bridge, built at the behest of the Earl of Abingdon in 1777,
Where a company still charges drivers today
(But not pedestrians!),
Then on to the now invisible Anglo-Saxon cultural importance
Of Eynsham, and Eynsham Lock,
Evenlode Stream and King’s Lock
(King denoting kine),
Underneath the Ox-ford by-pass
(You’ve heard its constant roar for over an hour),
To Godstow: ‘Get thee to a nunnery!’ –
‘The use of detectors is strictly forbidden’,
Fair Rosamund, Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson;
Pat the astonishing free grazing common lands of Port Meadow:
Horses gallop free, while a train passes in the distance,
Kine, countless, standing in the waters,
Swans gazing at the stationary herds,
Port Meadow, a feudal gift to the burghers of Oxford,
Courtesy of Edward the Confessor,
Honoured by William the Conqueror;
But the industrial revolution was calling:
A boatyard, a footbridge, Osney Bridge, a canal,
And a train back to Stroud.