Langdale At Long Last - Poem by Mark Lawmon
What lies over those hills?
What beauty is there veiled
In that verdant valley?
Or is it a vale?
Will it still be so wondrous when the rain turns to hail?
Lo! Here comes the fell rider now.
Hale, his face ruddy, his boots muddy,
His voice thrown long on the fell wind,
Hailing his fellow man,
Morning swells up from the mere,
More than merely mist
The mast must clear
Before the fell rider, full of fear
Will venture near, dismount
Give up four legs for sea legs.
Winding his way right
Through sodden marsh
Neath the singing of the lark.
A quick descent toward the shore,
He follows the scent of damp pine
And the relics of picnics
Serenaded by the skipping beats
Of skimming stones
Where once the beavers made their homes.
The sun askance now filters through the canopy.
The fell rider enters the wood,
Oh that he would
Climb the trees if he could.
He settles instead for morbid rumination:
How many corpses are buried
In these tranquil copses?
Wasted in reflection in deep Wastwater,
His eyes set in deep stares
Where behind him climbs a set of stairs;
Up the staggered slope
The ragged slabs are stabbed
Up toward the moss-strewn crag
Where down the drag is loose with slag;
The ghosts of coal mines, long empty,
Swirl through empty minds.
And without the shelter of the lee—
His coat flowing free in revelry—
It's the scuttling scrabble of loose scree
That high up here he's found
Sounds so loud
In the low-slung cloud.
Along the ridge he rides his round,
Across the mound and over the pike,
Up the peak
Neath the shadow of the raven
Clacking his beak.
From neath his tweed-flecked cap's peak
He peeks a flock of sheep
Whose woollen winter coats they keep.
A heap of wet grass and pile
Piled high toward the blue
And noontide sky.
The sun no longer hides,
The heat is nigh.
Is that a fellow rider he can spy,
Neath the hovering kestrel's cry?
The first he's seen in days,
But hard to say, obscured through haze.
In so many ways he prays
His eyes deceive him,
Leave him with little or nothing to believe in.
He looks again, the grin begins
Across his face creeping in,
The path steepening, down,
Toward the farm and past the tarn;
A scrap of torn yarn tied
At high tide around his arm,
A reminder of a happy calm
When all the vague and distant world
Seemed caught in an alarm.
Fearing no harm he gathers pace,
In haste he charges into this place
Careening through the hedge-walled lane,
His wake disturbs the weather vane
Atop the farmer's barn where once,
When all the village knew his name.
He slows again, whilst passing through,
As civil men were wont to do
Who once went where they wanted to,
Before the rules and news were new.
Before the few had staged their coup.
Before the wind stopped speaking to you,
Neath the fat wood pigeon's coo.
It's true, the fell rider might—
Though of body slight and short sight—
Muster his muscle and might to fight
Against his fleeting fright
As he forges forward in folly of flight,
Neath the soaring owl at height,
Into the night and into the dale.
The colours washed, the darkness pale,
The clouds hung overhead, a vale.
Once more he's been found to fail,
Left to wail and while away.
What more can he to the law say,
Save that he failed to impress today?
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