This is my England

Still from the video 'Regret Not Me' by Dora Darling
Photo: Mickey Richardson, from his video ‘Regret Not Me’ for Dora Darling

Regret Not Me by Dora Darling – no English song more beautiful than this

For those of us who love our England, its place in our hearts is beyond compare. Perhaps we feel it most where we are born and bred, but the whole is precious and there can be nowhere more magnificent, more steeped in our history, than the ancient Kingdom of Wessex. Driving west to Glastonbury from my home in Canterbury last week was a magical journey through this land, and by the time I passed Stonehenge I couldn’t love my country more.

I was going to visit my friend Rosie. We share a taste in music and last year she introduced me to a voice I had not previously heard, a voice that really touched me and stirred my sense of Englishness. Rosie sent me a video, recorded where she lives on the Somerset Levels, of a song crafted with care from a poem by the quintessential English poet Thomas Hardy, a man of Wessex, who through his work did more to keep its name alive than any other.

The title of Hardy’s poem was ‘Regret Not Me’, and the voice that turned it into song belonged to Dora Darling. Even her name sounded perfect. Hardy’s words could be on any English language syllabus and enjoyed in print alone, but in such sweet song I found their beauty mesmerising. I have played the song over and over and it resonates so deeply I could have it on a permanent loop.

The name of Glastonbury is known far and wide, if not for its Tor and ancient legends, then certainly for its famous music festival in nearby Pilton. English history, belief, and culture old and new are very deeply rooted in the area. William Blake’s words to ‘Jerusalem’ immortalising the supposed visit by Jesus as a child to Glastonbury have stirred many millions of English souls. How often have we sung about those feet in ancient time?

As I came close to Glastonbury last week and turned off the A303 just past Sparkford, who should be on Glastonbury FM Radio, being interviewed and singing songs from her forthcoming album, but Dora Darling! The broadcast could not have been more perfectly timed. Better yet, I was about to meet Dora, though I didn’t know it then.

It was good, as ever, to see Rosie and I shouldn’t have been surprised when Dora turned up with her two adorable young children because Rosie is like a magnet. But what an unexpected pleasure it was to meet the voice I’d heard and so enjoyed for the past year. I was also delighted to discover that ‘Regret Not Me’ is included on Dora’s album, The Quest, released later this month.

I have since heard the album and it is, of course, divine. Details of its release will appear on Dora’s Facebook page and website. English music festival organisers please listen and invite her to your stages when they resume.

There can be no finer English poet than Thomas Hardy and surely no English song more beautiful than this by Dora Darling.  This is my England.


Video by Mickey Richardson:

To buy digital downloads of Dora’s music:

Regret Not Me by Thomas Hardy, as sung by Dora Darling

Regret not me;
Beneath the sunny tree
I lie uncaring, slumbering peacefully.

Swift as the light
I flew my faery flight;
Ecstatically I moved, and feared no night.

I did not know
That heydays fade and go,
But deemed that what was would be always so.

I skipped at morn
Among the piles of corn,
Thinking it good and glorious to be born.

I ran at eves
Among the piled-up sheaves,
Dreaming, “I grieve not, therefore nothing grieves.”

Now soon shall come
The apple, pear, and plum
And hinds shall sing, and autumn insects hum.

Again you will fare
To cider-makings rare,
And junketings; but I shall not be there.

And gaily sing
Until the pewter ring
Those songs we sang when we went gipsying.

And lightly dance
Some triple-timed romance
In coupled figures, and forget mischance;

And mourn not me
Beneath the yellowing tree;
For I shall mind not, slumbering peacefully.