Robin Skelton

Robin Skelton Poems

My land had no customs. Habits, tricks
of the slow tongue, leading beasts to grass,
roads slape with rain, or answering

Robin Skelton Biography

Robin Skelton (12 October 1925 – 22 August 1997) was a British-born academic, writer, poet, and anthologist. Born in Easington, Yorkshire, Skelton was educated at the University of Leeds and Cambridge University. From 1944 to 1947, he served with the Royal Air Force in India. He later taught at Manchester University where he was a founder member of The Peterloo Group. In 1963, he emigrated to Canada, and began teaching at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. Skelton was an authority on Irish literature. He is well known for his work as a literary editor; he was a founder and editor, with John Peter, of The Malahat Review, and a translator. Known as a practising Wiccan, Skelton also published a number of books on the subject of the occult and other neopagan religions. Georges Zuk, a purported French surrealist poet, was a heteronym created by Skelton.)

The Best Poem Of Robin Skelton

Land Without Customs

My land had no customs. Habits, tricks
of the slow tongue, leading beasts to grass,
roads slape with rain, or answering
weddings and deaths in a dry voice
scurfy as dust in the village square,
boys’ names carved into the old stocks;

these—but no customs. Unless you count
the old men making one stretch of wall
the place for their backs, spring sun
blinking their eyes; or the way all
was marbles one day, the next tops,
in the road alongside the brick school.

Certain inevitables there were: the rub
of hands on apron at house door
to speak to strangers, the mild horse
surging the plough at a harsh roar
of ritual violence, the long silence
before speech. And these were

known and unknown. The land stood
somewhere inside them. A phrase missed,
a nod too easy, and boots dragged
at embarrassed cobbles. Two miles west
it was shallower, lighter. I once saw
a man there run for the town bus.

But no customs. In a way stronger
for that, I think. There was no need
to assert the place. It grew, changed;
the electric came and a new road
out to the south, and the telephone.
The pump was condemned. But the past stood.

And I daresay still, in its own way,
stands. Though a plaque by the old stocks
set in the wall is a thought strange,
there in the square are the old looks,
the pause before speech, the drab men
spitting in dust. Should I go back

these will have made me.
The small fields are as small elsewhere, the sky as blue
or just as grey with a thread of rain,
the stacks as lumpish, but here grew
something inalienable, a way
of giving each least thing its due,

a rock to living. A land without
customs, yes, but a land held
hard on its course, unsparing, firm
in its own ways. As I grow old
time hardens into that sure face
watching the foreign, shiftless world.

Robin Skelton Comments

Robin Skelton Popularity

Robin Skelton Popularity

Error Success