Thursday, 5 August 2010

North by North-East

How far, my beauty, from the little wooden gate
Beneath the shading tree in Witton churchyard wall,
Across the golden barley's rolling rise and fall
Stands Southrepps Saint James,
All scallop shells and proudly belled,
Sudden, striking, judgement tall.
Do we count each sweeping glimpse of pale fields,
Rippling from dark hedge ridges to a distant copse,
Every slumbering barn of flint,
Or just the curve of each grassy verge,
Shot through with dazzle red poppy tops?
You can see twenty seven church towers, they say,
From the top of Witton's own,
A north east watch long kept from this skilled encircling
Of hand hauled, labour rich stone,
Across peaceful farmland, trees lost and grown,
To the tiny, distant cone, toy red and white
Of the Happisburgh Light.
There is mighty Walcott, to challenge every gale blown,
Bacton, where one man rang the bells alone,
And nearby the worn down priory ruin,
Relic of the wealth of Bromholm.
Beyond all, always, the darksome, endless northern sea,
Hiding the great ancestral plains we roamed,
A silt entombed geography of hunting, of laughter,
The skilful working of shell and stone,
The crafting of antler, the polish of bone.
Let me unfold the map, dream of wandering paths
So many must have known, gathering hedgerow bounty
On long walks home, dirt stained from digging and lifting,
Threshing life from the fields they had shaped,
Stone cleared, argued over and sown.
Let us go, and go once more,
To hoard a tiny bounty of our own lore,
To know by heart where we saw a buzzard descend,
Learn the names of those local men
Scratched so carefully on Thwaite's old glass,
Which was the way Cotman may have walked, 
Churchward across cow soft Felbrigg grass,
The day he and Anne took their wedding path.
Who can take the measure of summer air?
Should we have quizzed the slow loping hare,
Or listened perhaps with more care
To the amazing sound of a butterfly
We thought dead
Slowly open peacock wings instead,
On a tiled chancel floor?
If just to hear one truth
From Nature's hoard;
Pursuit of measure is a human flaw.
Any wing whistling swift
Knows what the sky is for.

Richard the Heremyte


  1. Dear Richard the Heremyte,

    You clearly know what the sky is for; and for that, I thank you.

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