20 SEPTEMBER 1940, Page 10

Dreary Gleams

A chance allusion to the curlew's note and to Tennyson's " dreary gleams" has brought an interesting note on that popular passage, recording Tennyson's own views on his phrase. Mrs. Bradley wrote in 1870: " I ventured to ask him : ' Did he know that " gleam " was an old Lincolnshire word used formerly in the Fens for the cry of a curfew? . . ." I never heard it,' he said. ' I wish I had.' He thought it curious and interesting, explained that the passage in question 'meant nothing more than to express the flying gleams of light across a dreary moorland when looking at it under peculiarly dreary circumstances. . • • He wished he had used the word ' sweeping' instead of flying, it would have been more explicit." It has also been said that Tennyson referred to " a gleam of curlews," but there is no such phrase. The old word, as recommended by Dame Juliana

Berners, is " an herde of corlewys." W. BEACH THOMAS.