The dawn had whispers to tell me. It was an April morning and true to what The Bard has quoted, “the uncertain glory of an April day” exhibited all its beauty through the glittering rays and blue sky. It was at the crack of the day, we started our journey to Stratford-upon-Avon. The sky hadn’t had enough time to sweep off the ragged shreds of satin clouds. The air was clear with a cool breeze humming tunes to make the cherry and elm trees dance in unison. The day was dreamy and road to Stratford-upon-Avon from Sheffield was irresistibly alluring.
Nothing can match the greenery of a country side with the winding roads. Adding to its beauty are the scattered fluffy lambs on the meadows, on both sides, idly lying down, too lazy to start their grazing. “Why hurry? Take it easy”, they seem to tell us, the mortals!
For me, the excitement of visiting the birthplace of the greatest playwright was immeasurable. Being a literature student, my five years of study was predominated by Shakespearean sonnets and plays. The universality of his themes, the originality of his characters and the freshness of his language still amaze anyone, regardless of time! The road trip turned out to be a smooth and pleasant one thanks to my friend who was also equally excited to show us the place where the poet grew up.
Stratford-upon-Avon got its name from Celtic and Saxon words. It is a combination of strǣt meaning street, ford which means a shallow part of a stream and avon which means river. Henley street on this famous, historical town, stands with all its splendour and pride – proud because of its status of being the cradle to the world’s greatest dramatist. When you walk on the streets, you can feel the pulse of each tile on the pavement, throbbing to tell us these stories through their silent screams. As the welcome board says, beautiful Britain was in bloom, welcoming the tourists and leading them through the streets which still has an old charm.
At the end of Henley Street stands the bronze statue of the Jester, Touchstone, who with a cynical smile on his face, seems to be calling the onlookers ‘O Noble Fool! A worthy Fool’. For a fraction of a second, he tears apart the veil of wisdom we wear, exposing the hidden shades of follies and foibles in us! Our mortal forms are downsized by this life-like statue on a stone plinth.
The cobbled street of this town has lots to offer to the visitors – Shakespeare giftshops, half-timbered traditional buildings, performers dressed as Shakespearean characters and the list goes on.
And the street leadeth you to the humble abode of the poetic genius. This well maintained 16th century house amidst neatly cut flora and fauna has a mysterious charm – do you hear some heart beats in the air that surrounds the house ? Do you see the phantoms of his characters gazing at you, who still talk about them, mercilessly analysing their flaws?
A winding pathway from the Bard’s house, for a mile, takes you to Anne Hathaway’s farmhouse. This house and its extensive garden (garbed in a radiating feminine charm, with a streak of wilderness) will attract anyone! The thatched roof top of the cottage, with its head held high, seems to be on a watch out to guard the idealistic, rural setting. One can see nature there in abundance in the form of traditional thickets, shrubs and fragrant flowers in bloom.
This is where the courtship between Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway had taken place centuries back! The grains of sand in slumber might remember him singing to his ladylove:
“So are you to my thoughts as food to life,
Or as sweet seasoned showers are to the ground…”