Poem of the week – Walter Osborne: Apple Gathering, Quimperlé by Frank Ormsby

A richly described Victorian painting of a harvest scene is full of innocent joy, shadowed by what history would soon bring to the fields of northern France

Walter Osborne: Apple Gathering, Quimperlé

Weep for the green orchards of northern France
before the two world wars, their apple-rich largesse
bound ripely to the sap and to the sun
in fertile villages. At Quimperlé,
two girls are harvesting a tree bent sideways
by the weight of apples, one wielding a long stick
to bring them to earth, the other in her wake,
bending to gather. Just now their backs are turned
to the blockish bell-tower on the hill.
They seem composed in their rough working clothes,
and are aiming to fill that barrow with a fresh
cargo of apples. The promise of baking and brewing
is a scent in the air, and the prospect of rest
after, say, one more tree, is ...