Fat Hands

she used to sit in this cafe, and just face the wall. And it wasn’t coffee she was drinking

Thomas Tryte

Posted by Alix on 22 November 2007

I mentioned way back in 2005 about failing to find a certain poem online, and now two years on my dad has sent me the full text. I love this poem; having grown up in the area it served as a cautionary tale against straying too far from home on cold wintry nights. This estate agents website has a bit more on Charlton.

An Oxfordshire Legend

It was a wild December night,
And rain fell now and then,
And now and then the moon shone bright,
O’er moorland and o’er fen.The heavens looked angry, and the wind
Drove fast the clouds along,
And now moaned fitfully behind,
And now blew loud and strong.A traveller belated sped
Athwart the dreary plain,
And scared with his uncertain tread
The waterfowl amain.

And now he strains his anxious eye—
Alas, tis but a star,
Discovered in the murky night;
His home is still afar.

No welcome sound his ear could greet,
As onward still he paced,
To guide aright his weary feet,
Across the watery waste.

The winters day was on the wane,
When he, from Beckley Hill,
Had bent his steps to cross the plain,
For yonder distant mill;

Whose sales go round right merrily,
Near Charlton’s lofty tower,
Where Eolus whistles o’er the lea,
Or roars with mightier power.

That brave old tower ! I can but stop
To mark the scene below,
Which memory pictures from it’s top,
Though gazed on long ago.

Before me lies the moorland dun,
And Beckley’s pleasant hill,
And eastwards, towards the rising sun,
The lofty slopes of Brill;

More eastward, Arncott’s sunny knolls,
And frowning Graveshill Wood;
And westward, where the Cherwell rolls,
To royal Thames his flood,

Rise Islip’s tower, and the tall spire
Of merry Kidlington;
And Oxford – theme of many a lyre –
Full in the noonday sun.

Just ten miles south, in misty shroud,
Our Alma Mater lies,
And points her hundred towers proud,
Like faith unto the skies.

But to my tale– the wanderers feet,
Distrustful, paced the moor,
And soon he missed the narrow beat,
Which lead him on before.

He vainly strove, through the dark night,
To reach again the way;
The more he tried to journey right,
The more he got astray.

The rain-drops drove more thick and fast,
More loudly blew the wind;
The furies seemed to ride the blast,
And fret his anxious mind.

Yon meek-eyed star with joy had shed
On him from it’s bright form,
Now, like a timid maiden, fled
Before the howling storm.

‘Twas desolation far and wide,
And darkness hung around—
Above, below, on the side,
And on the plashy ground.

‘Lost, lost,’ he cried, ‘upon the moor !
Lord help me, or I die !’
The waterfowl screamed as before,
But no one heard the cry.

He shouted still with anguished mind,
‘Lost, lost upon the plain !’
The sound was bourne upon the wind,
And was not heard again.

Despair’s dark horrors on him fell,
He knew nor place nor hour,
When welcome sound the, curfew bell
Rang out from Charlton Tower.

Now faint the sound fell, now it smote
Distinct upon the ear,
Hope came with each repeated note,
And joy succeeded fear.

Conducted by the friendly sound,
Still echoing o’er the plain,
The homeward track he quickly found,
Nor missed it once again.

He reached that famed highway, at last,
Which led, as arrow straight,
To Alchester in ages past,
When Rome was strong and great.

It brought him to his dwelling soon,
And, as he neared the door,
His watch-dog bayed the gentle moon,
That now shone o’er the moor.

The storm was o’er, the wind had sunk,
A breeze was scarce in play,
And the dark lowering clouds had slunk,
As if ashamed, away.

And soon he saw his door ope wide,
Soon felt his wife’s embrace,
And soon beheld, with honest pride,
His loving daughter’s face.

Then spoke the yeoman, Thomas Tryte,
‘Hear, wife, and daughter dear,
I’ve made a vow this very night—
I’ll keep it, to, I swear.’

‘This night three hours I’ve passed distressed,
And lost upon the moor;
Such three long hours of dark unrest,
They seemed as many more.’

‘I wandered here, I wandered there,
Upon the watery plain,
And but for yonder bell, you ne’er
Had seen my face again.’

‘Its friendly notes me homeward brought—
They were my only guide;’
And grateful for the mercy wrought,
‘I’ll give a bell,’ he cried.

A bell of weight whose metal tongue
Shall speak across the plain,
To men benighted, loud and long,
And bring them home again.’

And so he did; and still that bell,
When Christmas time comes round,
Is rung out vigorously and well,
By those who love its sound.

And when its deep notes far and near
Peel in the winters night,
Each mother tells her children dear,
This tale of Thomas Tryte.


3 Responses to “Thomas Tryte”

  1. Andy said

    My I ask who wrote this poem?

  2. Alix said

    I’m not sure, to be honest – it’s from a book called Otmoor and Its Seven Towns (published by A.T.Broome & Son apparently). I’m not even sure when the poem was written, although it would have to be before the bell was removed from the church, but I have no idea when that was! I would guess 1700s, but that is really just a guess.


    M.G.Hobson and K.L.H. Price

  3. T.I. Campbell said

    The vicar of Charlton has suggested that the poem was actually written by Thomas Tryte himself. Possible source of information is the organist whose E address is brian@carlick.freeserve.co.uk.
    During the war large numbers of parish churches were robbed of their bells to provide metals for weapons, this may have been the case with Charlton.

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