Gathering Sticks on Sunday

If the man in the moon

Gazing at the waning earth, watches

How the frayed edge of the sunset catches

Thimbles and nodules of rock,

Hachuring distinct with threads of shadow

All that is hammered flat in the earth’s brass noon;

And if he sees,

New in the level light,  like pock-

marks on a face, dark craters,

The size of acorn cups, or scars

Vast as his own dried oceans, then

He’ll know that soon

The living world of men

Will take a lunar look, as dead as slag,

And moon and earth will stare at one another

Like the cold, yellow skulls of child and mother.

Norman Nicholson

An unseasonable poem by Norman Nicholson 

South Cumberland, 16 May 1943

The sun has set

Behind Black Combe and the lower hills,

But northward in the sky the fells

Like gilded galleons on a sea of shadow

Float sunlit yet.

The liquid light

Soaks into the dry motes of the air,

Bright and moist until the flood of dawn;

Shoals of swifts round the market tower

Swim with fish-like flight.

Six days ago

The fells were limed with snow; the starlings on the chimney pots

Shook the falling flakes off their tin feathers.

May gives a sample of four seasons’ weathers

For a week on show.

Trouble at Mill

A cold, wet, windy weekend in store so what better excuse to settle down with some yarn, a good book, radio on one side, shelties on the other.  The lentil Hashis Parmentier in the slow cooker. 
One of the programmes I am looking forward to this weekend is Poetry Extra on radio 4 extra tomorrow afternoon.   I don’t read much poetry but there are 5 poets who I do read and re-read constantly – John Clare, Edward Thomas, Adam Thorpe, Ivor Gurney and Norman Nicholson.  If you know these poets you can probably see a common theme. 
Here is Coastal Journey, taken from Norman Nicholson’s Collected Poems.

Poetry Extra – Provincial Pleasures – Norman Nicholson – @BBCRadio4Extra

Fir Wood

The firs that taper into twigs and wear

The rich blue green of summer all the year,

Softening the roughest tempest almost calm,

And offering shelter ever still and warm

To the small path that travels underneath,

Where loudest winds almost as summer’s breath

Scarce fan the weed that lingers green below,

When others out of doors are lost in frost and snow,

And sweet the music trembles on the ear

As the wind suthers through each tiny spear,

Makeshifts for leaves, and yet so rich they show

Winter is almost summer where they grow.
John Clare

The Wood is Sweet – poems of Clare selected by David Powell

Published by the John Clare Society

Happy Yorkshire Day

On the day that the Yorkshire Dales Park extends into Lancashire, and the Lake District National Park extends so that the borders of the two parks come within spitting distance of one another, what better way of celebrating than by sharing a poem by Cumbrian poet Norman Nicholson written in a Yorkshire dialect.

Nobbut God

First on, there was nobbut God, – Genesis 1, v 1., Yorkshire Dialect Translation.



First on

There was silence.

And God said:

‘Let there be clatter.’


The wind, unclenching,

Runs its thumbs

Along dry bristles of Yorkshire Fog.


The mountain ousel

Oboes its one note.


After rain

Water lobelia

Drips like a tap

On the tarn’s tight surface-tension.


But louder,

And every second nearer,

Like chain explosions

From furthest nebulae

Light-yearing across space:

The thudding of my own blood.


‘It’s nobbut me,’

Says God


Norman Nicholson



A Classic Guide

The Lake Country


It is an astonishing piece of England, the greatest surprise and delight that awaits the English traveller who has not been this way. It has deep solitudes, majestic heights and the solemn beauty of still water, a grouping of natural beauty uncommon in this country  and here seen at its best.

The Lake Mountains of England spring suddenly and loftily from low green valleys, and so abound in swift changes from soft and quiet beauty to rugged grandeur.  They are a medley of hills closely compressed, as if Nature had tried to place as much of her handiwork as possible on a small show ground.

The Lake District
The King’s England

Arthur Mee

The King’s England series was a comprehensive County by County guide to the towns, villages and features of England during the 30s.  I remember seeing these rather dusty and worthy books on the shelves of relatives whom we visited when I was a child.  It seemed each home had but one copy, usually that of the County in which they lived and the pages inevitably fell open at the page relating to their own town or village.

These books have been reprinted several times and I picked up a copy last week of this 1937 classic guide to Cumberland and Westmoreland.  Sadly the book does not contain the old Lancashire section of the Lakes, but it does contain the original photographs taken at the time before the crowds came.

This is not a book to be read in one sitting but to be dipped into, it is, after all a guide.  The places are listed alphabetically and there is a worthy interest in local history however minor and obscure, in monuments and buildings, especially chapels and churches.

Here is a  small excerpt taken from the section on Bassenthwaite

It lies at the foot of Skiddaw, and its lake is the third biggest lake in Lakeland. “This house done by John Grave 1736” says one little house in the village.

Bassenthwaite does not rate high in Lakeland scenery. Its commanding feature is the view of Skiddaw, which at some points shows a clear rise from the lake level to the summit. . . Compared with such lakes as Ullswater, Derwentwater, or Hawes Water, Bassenthwaite is just a quiet exit from the Lake Country.



A quiet exit