As I noted back in 2013, I first encountered "bourne" in this poem by Christina Rossetti:
Underneath the growing grass,
Underneath the living flowers,
Deeper than the sound of showers:
There we shall not count the hours
By the shadows as they pass.
Youth and health will be but vain,
Beauty reckoned of no worth:
There a very little girth
Can hold round what once the earth
Seemed too narrow to contain.
Christina Rossetti, The Prince's Progress and Other Poems (Macmillan 1866). No "dread of something after death" here. Nor anything that "puzzles the will." Which is quite characteristic of Rossetti.
I later came upon this, which I also included in my 2013 post:
Rebellious heart, why still regret so much
A destiny which all that's mortal shares?
Surely the solace of the grave is such
That there naught matters; and, there, no one cares?
Nor faith, nor love, nor dread, nor closest friend
Can from this nearing bourne your footfall keep:
But there even conflict with your self shall end,
And every grief be reconciled in Sleep.
Walter de la Mare, O Lovely England and Other Poems (Faber and Faber 1953). De la Mare was fond of Rossetti's poetry. Perhaps his poem is a conscious or unconscious echo of Rossetti's poem. The feeling is certainly similar: "solace," not "dread." And, "Sleep."
In a recent post I mentioned de la Mare's wonderful anthology Behold, This Dreamer! One of the sections of the book is titled "The Bourne," and includes an excerpt from William Drummond of Hawthornden's prose work A Cypress Grove (1623): "Life is a Journey in a dusty Way, the furthest Rest is Death." Walter de la Mare, Behold, This Dreamer! (Faber and Faber 1939), page 424. The section also includes Rossetti's "Up-Hill," which begins: "Does the road wind up-hill all the way?/Yes, to the very end," and which concludes: "Will there be beds for me and all who seek?/Yea, beds for all who come." Ibid, pages 426-427.
George Mackley (1900-1983), "Brackie's Burn, Northumberland"
My return to "bourne" at this time is occasioned by coming across this passage from John Ruskin last week:
"In the old quiet days of England, which I can but just remember, when it was possible to eat one's dinner without receiving a telegram, and when one might sometimes pass a whole day without hearing the least bit of news, remaining content with the information one had received up to that time of life -- in that benumbed and senseless period, little as you may now be able to fancy it, though nobody could be violently carried about in iron boxes, many people took what they called walks, and enjoyed them. And quite within access, in that torpid manner, from my own home -- within access also through pleasant fields and picturesque lanes -- there used to be a pastoral valley called the valley of the Stream, or Bourne, of the Raven. This word Bourne has, as you probably know, two meanings in old English, of which only one, that of limit or end to be reached -- the Bourne from which no traveller returns -- has remained, and that only in poetical use, to our time. But the more frequent meaning of it in early English was that of a small gently flowing, but quite brightly flowing stream; and when you find the names of villages ending with that word -- Ashbourne, Sittingbourne, or, as in an instance with which we are all now much too familiar, Tichbourne -- it always means that the village stood beside a streamlet."
John Ruskin, manuscript of lecture ("The Bird of Calm") delivered on January 13, 1872, in Woolwich, in The Works of John Ruskin (edited by E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn), Volume XXII (1906), page 239 (footnote 1).
One of the wondrous things about reading Ruskin is that you never know what is around the corner. This may seem like a truism: after all, do we ever know what any writer will say next? But in Ruskin the degree of surprise is enhanced due, first, to his passion for all the particulars of the World and, second, to the universe-wide range of his mind, which may at any moment alight anywhere. Hence, when I was not expecting it, out of the blue comes a delightful disquisition on "bourne."
The OED gives us this definition of "bourne" as a stream: "A small stream, a brook; often applied (in this spelling) to the winter bournes or winter torrents of the chalk downs. Applied to northern streams it is usually spelt 'burn'." Oxford English Dictionary, Volume II (Second Edition 1989). However, I prefer Ruskin's lovelier definition: "a small gently flowing, but quite brightly flowing stream." "The valley of the . . . Bourne of the Raven."
[A side-note: I entirely sympathize with the cranky commentary in the first sentence of the quoted passage. Ruskin was, in general, not pleased with the modern world as it existed in the Nineteenth Century. One can only imagine how cranky he would be today. I find his crankiness endearing. And right on the mark.]
John Lawson (1868-1909), "An Ayrshire Stream" (1893)
I have been dwelling in Victorian England the past few weeks. In addition to reading Ruskin, I have been visiting some of my favorite poems from that period. Around the time I encountered Ruskin's discussion of "bourne," I had returned to this:
A nun takes the veil
I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.
And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, in W. H. Gardner and N. H. MacKenzie (editors), The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Oxford University Press 1967). "Blow" (line 4) is used in the sense of "to blossom; to bloom."
Does Christina Rossetti haunt this poem as she may haunt de la Mare's poem? "The Bourne" could not have been a direct influence, since it was published in 1866, after Hopkins wrote his first draft of "Heaven-Haven" (which was originally titled "Rest") in 1864. But he greatly admired her poetry, and, of course, they shared the same strong faith (although Hopkins's was more fraught). "Rest" is a word that one comes across quite often in Rossetti's poetry. In a March 5, 1872, letter to his mother, Hopkins wrote of Rossetti: "the simple beauty of her work cannot be matched." R. K. R. Thornton and Catherine Phillips (editors), The Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins, Volume I: Correspondence 1852-1881 (Oxford University Press 2013), page 216.
In any event, although "bourne" does not appear in the poem, its sense as used by Rossetti and de la Mare fits well here: a place of arrival, the end of a journey. The hope, faith, and serenity of the poem never fail to move me.
Fred Stead (1863-1949), "River at Bingley, Yorkshire"