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My blog nick-name is SIR HUGH. I'm not from the aristocracy - my middle name is Hugh which relates to the list of 282 hills in Scotland compiled by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891. I climbed my last one (Sgurr Mor) on 28th June 2009


Saturday, 25 April 2020

Poem - Exploration (2)

After a few suggestions from a couple of friends I have rewritten the poem and there is a Dropbox link at the bottom if you want to hear me reading it.


My road from home stretches,
Like an airstrip long abandoned from their war
And now unpeopled until,
Way ahead man and dog approach,
And switch kerbs with marked intention:
Two ships avoiding collision on the sea.
Just a manoeuvre avoiding the unseen,
“Social Distancing” it is called.

We pass at regulation distance
Swapping our pleasantries, a sort of code,
To say,
“We are all in this together” 
And must obey.

The cemetery gates are locked,
Joe wouldn’t have approved.
Sadly he recently passed that way.

Right at the Cemetery onto the limestone path.
Climb towards the Knott.
Years away on distant tracks
Kept me from this home terrain.
New paths abound, and now I can pretend
I am exploring happily again.

Listen. A new kind of silence, 
Then exuberant birdsong interrupts, 
And squirrels scamper tamely under trees,
As unaccustomed peace and sunshine’s warmth
Nurture the springtime urge.

The path is steeper, breath comes harder, 
As I  push to gain some form.
This now becomes my war as I reach the Knott,
But am I really going to get the chance
To explore again without pretence 
Far away from home?


  1. I just caught the end of a report on BBC TV news about writing poems in the time of a pandemic lockdown. Missed most of it but it seems that putting one's mind to the formulation of prose helps the insecurity we are experiencing. Or did it make it worse??
    Might be worth you tracking it down if you wish to further your career in verse.

  2. BC - I don't think I'm suffering from insecurity. For me writing is a stimulating and interesting pursuit. As for writing verse that is also true but in order to make what are hopefully improvements on this effort there have been exchanges between myself and two others which have put me under more pressure but forced me into pushing myself further. Whatever one sets one's mind to with this sort of thing the aim must be to seek improvement through effort and thus gain personal satisfaction and that is what has happened here for which I am grateful.

  3. The better you get at writing poems the more it absorbs you. You might say the same about playing Solitaire but with poetry there is an end-product - a record of what your mind has been up to - a measure of inventive effort - and, here and there perhaps, a small sequence of words that carry the sting of true originality. It harms no one but, if it's good enough, it has the potential to reach out and tickle someone else's fancy. It can be shockingly difficult and frustrating but then that's why you do it. It avoids the aridity of sudoku or the mechanical processes by which crosswords are solved. It's a minority activity - certainly elitist - and it can generate a feeling of smugness. Look at me, I'm not watching telly. But smugness is not a negligible companion if you're on your own.

    Frankly I thought it was beyond me. It seemed too private, too inward-looking. But after a couple of years I found myself looking at this and it encouraged me to do better:

    Sonnet – Wednesday night practice

    The darkened nave entailed a womb of light
    Gilding our boyish group. Standing, we sang
    The Nunc Dimittis, Angels ever bright,
    Stainer – all proof our aims were Anglican.

    The words were null, my job to recreate
    The notes with an unthinking treble voice.
    I soared the heights towards the perfect state
    Where notes become a licence to rejoice.

    Fatigued by descants, holding volume low,
    I left betimes starved like a refugee,
    Ate Marmite toast then turned my face from woe
    Dispensing with the evening’s ecstasy.

    Oh wasteful child who lost that gift along the way
    And deeded me this false reed in decay.

  4. On balance, the 'opus suum' , is the better

  5. gimmer - I thought you were referring to this:

    opossum |(ə)ˈpäsəm|
    an American marsupial that has a ratlike prehensile tail and hind feet with an opposable thumb.common opossum
    common opossum
    [Family Didelphidae: several genera and numerous species, in particular the cat-sized common opossum (Didelphis marsupialis) of North, Central, and South America, which in North America was formerly known as the Virginia opossum and was considered a distinct species (D. virginiana).]

  6. Gimmer: This is ambiguous. Do you mean I was a better treble than I am a baritone? Or that I'd be wise to confine myself Solitaire?. Gnomic is good provided all the words do the task they are assigned.

    Or does God come into it somehow? You must make allowances for my lack of formal education. My Latin lessons ended at Thornville.

    Mind you I've been a touch ambiguous myself. Immediately after "looking at this" I should have inserted "which I'd just finished".

  7. well that's a possibility - either way:
    Your Lordship - for lunch or tea ? Dame Edna would advise, although cannibalism was not her forte: I heard of a New Zealander who was proud of the fact that he never bought meat - he contended that road kill was fresher and healthier - consisting mainly of said beasties !
    RR - liked the verses: the last four lines, as you hint in your final sentence, not for others. St Barnabus ? No, earlier, I assume. Unravelling poetry was, to me, something akin to cryptic crossword solving: all hidden, non-literal, alien ways of thinking, of little value in what passed as science education in that era. I was always - and still find myself doing - trying to answer the questions !
    I cannot compose, but can edit. I think (like to think) .

  8. Gimmer: Aha, I detect a damascene moment. You've learned to love the capital letter and I - for one - am better informed. You're right, I never travelled in that dubious vehicle, the St Barnabus. My choir days - a brief handful - occurred at the other side of Bradford, at Idle Parish Church. All possible jokes about this haven of Christianity have already been made.

    Your judgmental epithets tend towards the pejorative. Nothing, for instance, is hidden in:

    Earth has not any thing to show more fair:
    Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
    A sight so touching in its majesty:

    which, alas, I did not write. And this can be taken literally:

    Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars
    And say "These wounds I had on Crispin's day."

    As for alien, don't these words reach into your very idological being:

    This fortress built by Nature for her self
    Against infection and the hand of war,
    This happy breed of men, this little world,
    This precious stone set in a silver sea

    But you are right (playing to your strengths) when you evoke the world of Dirac and his peers (assuming there were any). I came to science and a mere sprinkling of mathematics late in life and found poetry in the hysteresis curve. What I know is fragmentary as, perhaps, this bit of iambic pentameter demonstrates:

    Strictly not quantum
    Dedicated to Lucy and Tom

    “My dear why don’t I mull some wine? Our Mol
    Is bored and I’ve suppressed a thousand yawns.”
    “You’ve had your Dowland, now let’s both enthrall
    To streams of photons from Cartesian dawns.”

    “My dear I’m neutron-mad, I learnt from you.
    I am your wife, no mass, but critical.”
    “But too naïve so take the vector view
    Embracing targets algometrical.”

    “My dear, these shining shells, these angled arms
    Don’t sing to me of Werner’s certainties.”
    “And yet in mining grace from physics’ charms
    You ditch the maths and seek analogies.”

    “My dear, but tell me where’s the parallel
    With made-up faces and a sliding gait?”
    “The face, uncertain, is the particle
    The slide its even more uncertain state.”

    “My dear - ” “Dear wife it’s time to mull the wine,
    Heat the Bourgueil, not the blest Lafite
    While I sit mulling on an endless line
    Eight on its side, so hard and yet so neat.”

  9. Humm
    I'll have to take some time to work that one out - not the poem, which is nicely witty, yet with undertones of scepticism of the value of the revelations of science (in which I include Mathematics, although some don't) , despite its apparent clarity - dare one say, like the Wordsworth - but the theme of the comment.
    Meanwhile, I must tend to the roses.
    Anyway, in my mind's eye, I was talking about Keats et al, not Shakespearean scene setting or exhortation: the plays had to be intelligible instantly, aurally - that the globe's libraries groan under the weight of scholarly analysis cannot alter that. The genius was in the subtlety - one can enjoy a mlllefeuille without understanding the physics and chemistry of its creation (sorry for the minced metaphors - but you 'know what i mean' . . .)

  10. Gimmer. Leave it at that, then. But you know you'd have come down on me like a ton (tonne?) of bricks had I confused momentum, velocity and acceleration. As an act of un-Christian charity I'll forgive you your hair-splitting about "Keats et. al" and "Shakespearean scene setting" given that I could have chosen any of a thousand other lines for the latter. Nor would I have invoked a single academic.

    You say you're a better critic than an originating poet. Most people are; it probably describes my uneasy status. But what is inarguable is your potential to explain science - in all its forms - to people like me, wretchedly educated, yearning for a source of instruction, solidly informed yet capable of explaining things without falling into the trap of "populism" which many of your peers abhor.

    A blog is simply devised and there is no need to contribute regularly. You have a huge archive and you could, if you chose, provide a public service. If only for me.

  11. RR and gimmer - I have been missing a good scrap since rugby has gone from my screen - this wasn't too shabby a substitute.

  12. Not scrapping, merely seekers after truth
    - if not truth, understanding !