Poem introduction

When I was Poet in Residence at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, I became fascinated by a certain dry-stone wall which seemed to go on forever, really, and have a reputation, and I wrote a poem about it; and the lines are very, very short, one word, two, three, four at the most - they are usually short ones when they're four. And so it looks a little bit like the wall, though you won't hear that when I speak it.

Cumberland Wall

Prehistoric,

this wall

between nothing

and nothing,

air and air

that scrambles

crazily across

the hills,

not stopping

for outcrops

but staggering

on over them:

xylophone vertebrae,

skeleton of an

extinct beast,

mythologocal, even,

skinned dragon

of the crests

and valleys,

tottering on

through time and

distance, stone

on stone, poised

one on the other

by hands now bone

or dust, on and on

over rise into dell,

lichened, mossed,

gappy, showing

wedges of sky;

fossil holding

fossils, as it

clings and stumbles

determinedly forging

a ramshackle way

over the green

hillside, still

to be doing it

after the last

weapon has been

launched, the last

breath breathed,

the last promise

broken; perching

on humps of hill,

separating nothing

from nothing, air

from air, marking

a forgotten dogma

treading stonily

among buttercups;

shackling the slopes

where raven

and buzzard quarrel,

where skylarks swoop;

heavy necklace

of grey rocks

adorning the marshy

fields and daisy

constellations, strung

out to the sky edge.


from In Wordsworth’s Chair (Flambard, 1995), © Gerard Benson 1995, used by permission of the author

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Gerard Benson

Gerard Benson Downloads

1Beginning

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2Dannie Doyle

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3i.m. Patricia O’Brien

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4February 5th 1940

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5Air Raids 1942

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6The Bomber

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7A Good Time

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8Boathouses

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9Early Morning Walk

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10Dance of the Scarecrows

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11Cumberland Wall

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12Tennis

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13Bomb Poem II

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14Sunset Ending

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15A Thespian Rondeau

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16Kyrielle of a Thousand Kisses

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17A Tale of Two Citizens

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18History Lesson

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19The Artes Administratoure

20Joan Armatrading at St George's Hall

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21The Season Announces Itself by Various Signs

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19The Artes Admysnstratoure

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22Garlic

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23The Jaguar’s Reply

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24Bionic

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25Brookside Road

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26Bar Sketches

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27Checkmate

28After Beethoven

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29Breathing

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30Capus

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31A Very Good Upholsterer

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32Riddle

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Books by Gerard Benson