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And The Hills Beyond

My late father was a Londoner by birth but hated the big city, and was never happier than when he was walking his beloved Yorkshire Dales. After he died the family found poems that he had written about Yorkshire.

 

CURLEW OVER KINDER


Spring’s passion blends with Winter’s wane
While late blizzard brings snow-blossom to holly and blackthorn
Your cry for mate fills this place of wintry solitude
Are you bird or is it wraith we hear?
Far cry calling amongst the fells
Like shake of bells
Curlew your name and coor-lee your plea
Free
Coorlee:Coorlee:

Summer 1967

 

 

BRIMHAM MOOR


Embattled skyline, fortress ‘gainst the winds;
Blustery north-easter; wild westerly;
Hurling your bolts of violence against these ramparts:
What siege has lasted ten thousand years?
And yet ten times ten thousand years ago
this siege was well begun.
Snow and steaming swamps and snow again
have armed your blast.
Hail and heat and adamantine grit
have been your ammunition:
Grape shot in the cannon of the air;
Armoury of the elements.


Autumn 1967

 

 

WALDEN


Sunshine and shadow fleeting ‘cross the fellside;
Moortop crowned by clear blue sky,
Curlew calling to its mate above a
dappled pasture;
Green bracken.
Soft wind blows, warmed by summer sunshine;
This is Walden.
Beck a swollen torrent plunging over rock-scar;
Moortop thick with white hill fog;
Saturated.
Misty bath of drizzle;
Cows disconsolate, staring;
This is Walden.
Deadman’s Hill; ancient way of pack-men
Crossing high from Nidderdale upon the
flank of Whernside.
What welcome sight this valley, cleft
among its hills.
Promise of food and shelter soon found.
A road that leads to nowhere across
a hump-back bridge;
Sturdy grey stone.
What torrents of turbulence have swirled
under that rough-hewn arch?
What May-fly generations have cast their skeins
of tracery over drought-diminished
pools in your shade?
This is Walden.


Autumn 1967

 

 

MOONBOW OVER GLENHOUSE


Shade of your brighter sister,
Pale ethereal moonbow;
Ribbon of heaven garlanding the stars.
Leash for the Great Bear, tethered
to Eternity
Was ever cord as gentle
Or stretched so far?


Autumn 1967

 

 

WIDDALE


Breath of the moorland;
Peat-scented uplands;
Sphagnum, turf and reed-grass challenging the pace,
Up ever upward, crestward aspiring,
The heart leaps forward,
The pulses race.
Purpose accomplished,
The eye turns back again
Down to the valley where the beck runs by.
Motor-car and lorry creep along the roadway,
No more than a crawling fly.
Up on the fell-side
Ewe sheep are bleating;
Wind in the reed-grass, the lapwing’s voice,
Here can the sinew exult in the effort,
The mind find refreshment,
The heart rejoice.


Autumn 1967

 

 

OXNOP


Oxnop; strange name of bye-gone days,
Track for pack mules plodding ‘cross the moor;
Tortuous.
Linking the dales of Swale and Ure:
What ruffians lurked along the way to harass merchants;
To rob them of their gains from markets
in those valleys ‘neath the hills?
In daylight, fears enough, but what of dark?
What hob-goblin hides behind each bush,
each craggy rock?
What hound of hell pursues when the wind
blows free?
Wild westerly.
Sowing south-easter bringing rain like rods of steel
upon this stern terrain;
Blowing up hill-mist from which might leap
fiend infernal.
And today?
A wild way of beauty unsurpassed:
No hob-goblins?
Our modern minds dismiss such apparitions.
But when clouds scud low
And the night winds blow cold, we as men of old
Seek a star to guide us to the comfort
of the village far below.


Autumn 1967

 

 

KISDON ISLAND


Blond giants of the horned helmet
Swooping from the hills upon .... what nameless hamlets?
Muker, Thwaite, Keld, Gunnerside;
What settlements of goat-herds did you succeed.
Like fire these warriors sweep through the upland forest.
Rape and ravage is their warfare;
The law of the axe, their only king.
Great Gunnar!
Was he captain of some long-ship
Who led his crew of Norsemen in raid upon the
coast of Cumbria,
And thence ‘cross valley moor and fen
‘til head of Swale lay at their feet?
Kisdon Island;
Fair haven for these men of northern fjord,
Here to settle;
Here to grow to know and love this valley
‘neath the foreign fells.


Autumn 1967

 

 

NIGHT EXPRESS THRO’ DENTDALE


Dim radiance of ceiling lights made still more dim
As moonlight streams through carriage window.
Sleep shattered by the heaving of train-bodywork
Thundering through the night.
Cramped: cold:
In the carriage stagnant discomfort:
Outside a fairy-land of beauty:
Dark hills; bright mist brimming from the hollows;
The moon riding serene above.
Strident steel shrieking intolerance at the station;
Stygian darkness below;
The moon riding serene above.
A mirrored flash as quiet stream reflects here radiance.
No houses in the well-remembered valley
All slumber in the darkness
Sheltered ‘neath the all-enfolding hills.
Straight back of Whernside;
Round hump of Ingleborough;
Misted, majestic;
The moon riding serene above.


Autumn 1967

 

 

CAM


Cam pasture;
A furrow gouged by glacier; Nature’s plough,
Across the broad expanse of Pennine fell,
By Pen-y-gent.
No balmy breeze to blow upon these open steps,
Where bleak wind sough.
But rough south-westerly ‘times buffeting
stone curragh and dry wall
Across the wastelands.
Cam Houses;
Grey walls set four-square.
Stern; hard; forbidding;
Built by men remote of spirit, where
Matching their efforts against the elemental forces
They wrest a living from this hostile land.
No promised Eden this:
Can grain-crop ripen ‘neath the northern rain?
Battlefield for man’s endurance -
Scant feeding ‘een for cattle won
Against the all-encroaching moor.


Autumn 1967

 

 

HUBBERHOLME CHURCH


Whence this discord to disturb your serenity sublime
Far from the clamorous cities thronged?
And yet this intrusion of fume and noise
Is but for a brief time
And then the blessed balm of silence,
Held within your walls as stout
Will reach again unchallenged
To the encircling fells about.
Grey Hubberholme set in your quietude
Beside these shining waters running free.
What healing can you bring to weary mind
Burdened with cares all common to mankind?
Yet longing for blessed liberty?
For those just passing by there is no respite.
They pause but in their pausing fail to heed
That He who in His love His load with no man shares
Whose ageless name of glory this age-worn building bears
He is the One Who satisfies their need.


Autumn 1967

 

 

MALHAM COVE


Grikes and clints; tombstones
In memoriam for a river fed of ice-field high
on Fountain’s Fell,
Flowing when the world was young over the abyss;
Now long dead.
But what is this?
A resurrection river streaming forth:
Head of Aire
Malham Cove,
From whose womb is born a beck of
crystal beauty:
Grey wall of curvilinear limestone
rearing to the sky
So vast; so high that fickle men is dwarfed
Confounded by her constancy.


Autumn 1967

 

 

T’FAELLS


Hills unchangeable yet ever changing;
Never a day or even an hour alike.
Morning, evening; sunrise, sunset,
Crowning you with colour
Fleeting in its iridescence, rare as jewel,
Soft silhouette.
Snow, rain, mist, shine;
Passage of the seasons:
Black and grey of Winter, wearing misty mantle
Stark Spring;
Timid green o’ercast with bleak storm cloud
Downpour of hail,
Thunderous deluge and wild wild wind.
Summer in her glory:
Brief interlude of heat haze.
Quiet sombre Autumn;
Waiting.
These so gently inclined downs of scrub and hawthorn.
No Wealden verdure,
But craggy scar, scree face and steep ascent,
Where sure-foot Swadills feed amongst grey outcrop;
Where curlew-cry is heard above bleak moor;
Bog-cotton, peat and ling.
Here is solitude.
Here savage serenity, at once cruel and yet kind.
Gregarious man, denying his true nature,
Clinging to the crowd,
Fearful of this quietude that forces him to ponder,
But where his soul may sing.


Winter 1967

 

 

THERE MUST BE


There must be dales in Paradise
or what would a dalesman do?
There must be dales in Paradise
to wander through and through
Bold Pen-y-gent and stern Whernside
are wondrous fair to see
And bonny Dentdale’s sunny slopes
are paradise for me.
To feel the rhythm of the pace that
wanders far and free!
To stride rough pastures of Cam Fell
and Langstrothdale so fair!
On steps above Wharfe’s waters bright
to breath the moorland air
Is nectar to tired townsmen who
the asphalt deserts flee.
But when we’ve done with wandering
amongst these well loved hills.
When Earth has loosed its hold on us,
its blessings and its ills.
We’ll find familiar pathways as
we reach fair Zion’s strand.
And our feet will know the blessings
of that beauteous Beulah Land.


Summer 1968

 

 

MEUGHERSIDE ‘68


From Mossdale mine of ill-repute,
Where five men died in flooded cave,
By Meugherside to Nidderdale
Is five hard miles for men astute in fell-craft.
For trial of sinew and resource,
Where bent grass hampers steady pace
With ling and peat hags clogging step;
Five testing miles for Man’s resource to fell-craft.
‘Neath arid sun and burning wind,
With heat-haze dancing on the hills.
The will rebels against the pace,
For five cruel miles in men unskilled in fell-craft.
If rash stray there it may be rued,
For danger dogs the careless step.
Deep bog-hole threatens broken limb
And thirst the consciousness can dim
In five miles grim for men not shrewd in fell-craft.


Summer 1968

 

 

THE WILD WAYS


Fair are the wild ways
Where furze grows high
And turf is soft to the tread.
When the west wind blows
And the curlew calls,
Thither my feet are led.
But when Autumn holds sway
In crimson robe.
And Summer’s brief reign is done,
Nature sinks down
To her winter sleep
Scarce warmed by a waning sun.
Then bleak are the wild ways
When Winter’s here,
With a sky that’s leaden above,
But Spring comes again
With her fragrant green
And I return to my love.


Winter 1968

 

 

MAY IN NIDDERDALE


Moonglow over Gouthwaite;
Quiet the peaceful valley;
Evening mists rise softly in the fields.
Trees stand dusky, windless,
In the silence brooding
As light to kindly darkness
Her provence temporal yields.
Sunrise spreads its glory
Across the sleeping hamlets;
Bird-song fills the fragrant morning air.
Cows stand quietly munching,
Udders full for milking,
While lark ascends to heavens
And trills her music fair.
Peaceful lies this valley;
Green fields ascend to moorland;
Woodlands clothe the higher hillside slopes.
Man in tune with Nature
By sweat his living earning,
As new Spring comes afresh each year
Reviving his best hopes.


Summer 1970

 

 

AND THE HILLS BEYOND


Stark settlement of Viking chieftain,
Entrenched upon hill promontory;
Moorland to its back,
Fen before its feet;
Broad river winding through a lowland forest
And the hills beyond.
Such is Ais’garth,
From whose stockade is pillage planned
‘Gainst those who safety seek within stout walls,
Firm with Roman mortar built
Beneath the shade of Addleburgh.
Horn-man of Bainbridge,
Do you warning give of dusk
And perchance wild beast overtaking wayfarer
Within the forest’s bounds?
Not only so,
But of human beasts more savage in their stealth
Than any wolf, wild-cat or brutish boar.
Times change.
But not Man’s inhumanity.
Come other north-men bringing fire and ravage,
Untamed, despite benign influence of priest and monk
In land once great Charlemayne’s most northern bond:
Norman butchers!
Roll on near two score decades,
Until four-square is raised
By Richard, first Lord Serope,
Stern castle; keep and curtain wall towered and turreted.
Beside a Christian house of prayer,
Old long before such tack was contemplated,
Castle Bolton.
So now, against a backcloth of the hills
Stand these grey walls, once cage for royal guest,
Queen Mary of the Scots,
Tudor, Stuart, Commonwealth,
Masters in their turn;
All have their day.Thus cavalcade of history,
Events both great and small
Pass through this lovely dale;
While Aysgarth, quietly, on its hillside looks on.
Broad river winding through the lowland pastures
And the hills beyond.


Autumn 1968

 

 

THE SILENT TRAVELLER


Bright orange, red and blue tents
Bespeckle the green valley.
Looming above its verdure,
Like a giant upturned boat,
Stands Simon’s Seat
And all around the moorland
With hues of softest purple.
In the footsteps of Chiang Yee
I make my way.
Marvelling at this beauty;
See afresh Laburnum Farm,
The way to Parscival Hall;
Pick up befossiled limestone
Of a thousand million years.


Summer 1970

 

 

BASED ON PSALM 121


To the Lord who all our need supplies
Towards the hills my eyes I raise.
He shaped their form, the heavens above;
He will not sleep, but in His love
Will guard my going and my ways.
For the Lord of Life my Master is.
The perils of day and while I sleep
Shall hold no harming power for me
Wherever I go His grace will be
And my soul He will in safety keep.

 

 


 

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