Anthem For Essex

in Poetry

Martin Newell is a singer-songwriter, columnist, and author. He is regarded as a significant figure in the history of cassette culture and DIY music. He is also a poet and photographer who observes the landscape and life of wild and human Essex. One of his most popular works is The Greatest Living Englishman (1993), produced by Andy Partridge of XTC.

Anthem For Essex

Tilty, Wimbish, Stebbing, Shopland
Chipping Ongar, Ingatestone
All the market towns and hamlets
On the rivers Crouch or Colne
West of Walton, east of Easton
Shellow Bowells to Hanningfield
London’s bread-bin, lungs and love-nest
Beaches, birdland, wood and weald
Essex. Seaxes, sheaves and shield.

Here the horsemen met for racing
Here the highwaymen were hung
Here the painter saw the skyline
Here the tide would poke its tongue
In among the samphire saltings
While the sun set sea alight
Here the smugglers moved the malmsey
Up the creek in dead of night
Customs cutter out of sight.

Saucy, sexy, seaside Essex
Driest place in British Isles
Where the robbers took retirement
When the Sweeney shut the files
Home of rock and naughty rhythms
Pirates, Paramounts and Procul
Harum, Hotrods, Ian Dury
Dr Feelgood – they were local
With Lee Brilleaux on lead vocal.

Epic Essex, best for bike-rides
Liberally laced with lanes
Pubs to punctuate the pedalling
Flower-baskets hung on chains
Coastal Essex – secret rivers
Heron-haunted waterland
Where the silver light in autumn
Lingers for a saraband
On the shingle and the sand.

Here are tales of long-dead writers,
Ghostly bikers, missing planes
Council gardens, scrapyards, thatches
Cricket matches seen from trains
Yellow fields in dazzled springtime
Varnished by a Van Gogh sky
Blind the copses and the spinneys
Where the rooks are building high
And the world goes skating by

Where the weather-boarded cottage
Waits in moddy monochrome
Nestling with new commuters
And the future coming home
Envious London, stuck in traffic
Simmering its quiet desires
Senses Essex spanning endless
Hazier than orchard fires
Out beyond those distant spires