29 June 2020

Poem


Up North

Ragged sheep graze moortops
Midst windbent gorse and heather
Lowry figures trudge to work
Heads bowed against the weather.

Stone walls form the skeleton
Of our blue remembered hills
Where terraces crawl up valleysides
From dark satanic mills

I heard a curlew calling
Her plaintive song of yore
Above these hallowed counties
Where Vikings went before

Her chorus contained questions
Of where our truth might be
Embroidered in our accents
Or lost to history.

We are the children of Captain Cook
And of Emily Davison too
Heirs to soil and industry
In this landscape that they knew.


To grinning caricaturists
We never shall succumb
Up North is where the heart is -
Great Britain’s beating drum.


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I wrote this poem today - June 29th 2020. The photograph at the top is of John Crowther Mill at Marsden near Huddersfield. It was taken on November 7th 2013.
Lowry - refers to the northern industrial paintings of L.S. Lowry (1887-1976)
Captain Cook - James Cook, the Yorkshire seafarer and explorer (1728-1779)
Emily Davison - suffragette martyr buried in Morpeth, Northumberland (1872-1913)

44 comments:

  1. As always your poetry resonates with me. I'm a bit puzzled by the "..traitors and apologists". Obviously I agree with the last couple of lines.

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    1. Perhaps I should change that line. I was thinking of people who leave Up North and denigrate it or politicians who come up with ill-considered schemes to address our concerns like the laughable "Norther Powerhouse" idea mooted by George Osborne. I admit that that line was not given as much consideration as most of the other lines in this poem. Thank you for reading it so thoughtfully Graham.

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    2. I see your point but I would not have got it without the explanation. For which, thanks.

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    3. I have changed it now but I may change that line again. It needs to lead to the strong ending of the last two lines.

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    4. I think I like it better with the original line, personally. Be like the Royals: Never complain, never explain! I always want to explain my poems and I always do, but they're not "real" poetry so it doesn't count :) I would like to be able to write inscrutable poetry.

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  2. I love the fact that you're so proud of the place you come from.

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    1. In England "Up North" is the underdog to the soft-bellied "Down South" that spins about our metropolis.

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  3. I like your poem. Like Graham it also resonates with me.

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    1. You were in my mind when I wrote this poem Northsider.

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  4. Are we all heartless down here in the South then?
    Briony
    x

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    1. Yes Briony. All southerners are heartless beasts apart from you, Tom Senior, Tom Junior and the rest of your family... also ADDY who lives in West London. She's okay too.

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    2. What about me?

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    3. Oh yes...I forgot that you are also a southerner JayCee. You can definitely be in the Okay Gang too.

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    4. Glad we've got that clear.lol

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    5. I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of you Briony! You might stab me with your knitting needles.

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  5. It resonates with me, too, although I am a part-time Yorkshire lass only by choice, not by blood.
    The mill and terraced houses look familiar. Is it possible that I have come past there many times on the Transpennine Express? I know there is a stop in Huddersfield.

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    1. There is a railway station at Marsden and it connects with Manchester Victoria.
      P.S. You have spent more time in Yorkshire than some Yorkshire people and deserve to be judged an honorary Yorkshirewoman. Ee-by-gum!

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  6. The last verse is so true of my adopted home town
    Sheffielders never run with the sheep

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    1. You are a good ambassador for Sheffield.

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  7. Very nice poem, Neil. I detected some William Blake influence ("dark satanic mills"). I love the ragged sheep grazing the moortops and the curlew calling her plaintive song. Well done.

    I am a northerner by birth (Rhode Island) and a southerner by chance (Texas, Florida, Georgia), but I'm in a whole different country.

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    1. Thanks for your support and encouragement Bob and yes - I nodded to William Blake and to A.E.Housman too:-

      Blue Remembered Hills

      Into my heart an air that kills
      From yon far country blows:
      What are those blue remembered hills,
      What spires, what farms are those?

      That is the land of lost content,
      I see it shining plain,
      The happy highways where I went
      And cannot come again.

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  8. Just because you can write a guid poem that scans, and take a grand photo o'Crowthers Mill, doesn't mean you can diss George Osborne our former Chancer, sorry Chancellor, and well-known female impersonator. Show a little respect, Laddie. At parties Georgie does a faaabulous Marlene Dietrich act, top hat and monacle and swallowtail coat, singing *Falling in loff again, never vonted to, vot am I to do, I caan't help it!*

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    1. HA! HA! Nice one John! As Margaret Thatcher said to Ronald Reagan,"You tickled my fancy there sir!"

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  9. Or as Sydney Greenstreet said to Bogart, *I like the cut of your jib, Sir!*
    The Maltese Falcon, based on Dashiell Hammett's novel.
    Albert Finney played a bingo-caller, Eddie, in a Liverpudlian movie, Gumshoe. Eddie keeps reading The Maltese Falcon. *It helps me plan my life,* he tells his shrink.
    Billie Whitelaw and Frank Findlay also starred.
    If I drink enough moonwater, can I go back to the old North, before Mrs T?

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    1. No Ronald! The lady is not for turning. Wasn't Mrs T in "The A Team"?

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    2. Margaret Hilda Roberts would have been well cast as a bossy W.P.C. in the 1949 Ealing Comedy, Passport to Pimlico. It would have taken Margaret Rutherford to stand up to her: *Now see here young lady, you may be wearing trousers like Chief Inspector Hameld, but you've got cambric knickers on below just like any other real woman!*
      I would far rather watch English movies than American.

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  10. I enjoyed your poem and especially like the line: "Embroidered in our accents". That is a lovely line and thought. That photograph is wonderful too. It looks like one that should be a history book as it has a special "feel" about it.

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    1. should be *in* a history book

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    2. Thanks for reading it with an open mind Bonnie.

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  11. Good poem, O proud Yorkshireman! There's a graphic novel called "Dark Satanic Mills," about a future dystopian Britain (arriving tomorrow, I think). I never realized that phrase had an earlier history -- your poem sent me down an Internet rabbit hole of Blake and "Jerusalem." And I'm glad you explained the "Lowry" reference -- I wouldn't have gotten that either.

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    1. L.S. Lowry is as familiar to northerners as Jackson Pollock is to Americans. Thanks for reading the poem and for your kind encouragement Steve.

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    2. Steve and other readers, get a hold of *The Gallows Pole* by Benjamin Myers set in late 18th Century Yorkshire; life among the weavers. Published in 2017 in paperback by Bluemoose Books (Hebden Bridge), the people and places of the Upper Calder Valley are seen in high relief. Benjamin's novel *Pig Iron* won the Gordon Burns Prize.

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    3. Thanks for the "heads up" on these two books John.

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  12. You have drawn a bleak but fiercely proud picture with this poem, YP. I enjoyed it.

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    1. I might craft more than one "Up North" poem Jenny... or a "Down South" poem that would have a very different character!

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  13. Good photo to go along with your poem describing a much different time.

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  14. Yes I enjoyed the poem, I did wonder though that your Viking inheritance may have inspired the antagonistic feelings for the South. Vikings were a pretty cruel bunch. Ted Hughes, who is a favourite poet of mine, is very dark and wandering round places like Hebden Bridge and Todmorden, I can see why.

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    1. "The North" has many different facets doesn't it Thelma? The Howardian Hills are "The North" just as much as places like Todmorden that have a bleak, exposed character like "The North" of "Wuthering Heights".

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  15. That is a proper poem...it rhymes!
    We lived in Morpeth for 4 years in the mid 70s....never knew Emily Davison came from and was buried there. Just had a " street view" trip round the town. Couldn't remember St. Mary's church but it seems I must have passed it many a time on the way in to the town from home!

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    1. Well knock me down with a wet haddock Frances! I would never have imagined that you had once lived in the land of "Up North" being a Harpenden lass and all.

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    2. I am actually a Leicester lass...born and bred! Glad I am not there now!

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