In the second draft of ‘Cotton Grass’, changes to the description of the grasses make them appear more alive.
The alteration of ‘stand barefoot’ to ‘wade barefoot’, makes the cottongrasses active. They may ‘bow / to the military parade / of boot and stick’, but they, unlike the parade, are unconfined by ‘the path’s edge’. Working among the elements ‘trawling the breeze, carding the air’, they are more powerful presences than their appearances as ‘humble courtiers’ would suggest.
‘Carding’ was a process used by the textile industry to untangle and straighten fibres. Used here it personifies the grasses and positions them as workers; it links the natural landscape of the Pennine Way with the industrial heritage of the North without losing any sense of the beauty or wilderness of the area.
The cottongrasses are both agile in space and masters of time, ‘letting’ it ‘blaze through their ageless hair / like the wind’. This striking phrase remains unchanged throughout the drafts.