The Slough of Despond
You all know experience at Green Gym brings on muse often a literary allusion. Or should it be illusion? Well here is another one.
I am at Ewelme Watercress beds and I am working on one of Tom’s ‘ponds’, he just wants it cleared, open water in fact. The pond is a roundish patch of water hemmed in by the usual watercress gone rampant but here silt has collected over time and it cannot run away it just settles wet and thick. Plant cover builds up and snakes out in strong tussocky clumps. To remove it you use shears if you can find purchase then push a fork or spade under the water and try to lever the clump. You enjoy an obscene squelch as something gives way, then a sort of gulf as air rushes into the space you’ve made. It is all very onomatopoeic. Well isn’t it? Like I said Then there is a sucking noise broken off suddenly with a sort of squish squash as the clump reluctantly comes away. A few minutes later your wrists start to throb, the radii in your arm feel on fire, your boots or wader seem to be rooted. Not locked for ever surely?
You look around there is masses of it, you could be here all day.
Now in John Bunyan’s allegory Pilgrims Progress, Christian, the hero, struggles in such a slough but it is a moral slough not just a physical one. He is weighed down by the burden of his sins. At least we don’t have that at GG, well not that noticeably.
So here is the quote-
‘This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond: for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.’
Bunyan supposedly was inspired by Squitch Fen (delicious name that) near his home in Harrowden Bedfordshire which he had to cross on his way to church in Elstow. I wonder how it compared with this squelch I stood in and worked in today.