Old Man at Angle Tarn


Another poem from my trip to The Lake District with my niece Jenny. The photo is not Angle Tarn but it is such a great photo of Jenny’s I thought I would use it. The importance of not losing the adventure of youth and in many ways reconnecting with it later again is so important. I read last night before writing the poem some lines from Thom Gunn’s “The Occasions of Poetry”. His final paragraph from an essay on “Eliot, Pound, Basil Bunting” (page 158) where he says:

“We seek some kind of reconciliation with our beginnings, or at least an understanding  of how such a reconciliation might be brought about…..”

It is true of our smaller youthful beginnings too, when we strive so hard to find heroic adventure and only later realise exactly what it was we were really searching for. It is of course a reconciliation and a reconnection, a finding again our belonging with the Earth. As my poem says:

to find my breath again…”

Old Man at Angle Tarn

Red Tarn from Striding Edge (Jenny Haughton)

Red Tarn from Striding Edge (Jenny Haughton)

“Or like a man from some far region sent,
To give me human strength, by apt admonishment.”
William Wordsworth: “Resolution and Independence”

Up high by the tarn desperate
to find my breath again
I approach this shirtless old man
his chest tanned and scared from surgery,
he is resting on his self hewn stick,

It’s a hard climb, he says,
watching me breath deep.
He speculates about
a short cut over rocky scree to
Ore Gap and what d’you call it,
Bow Fell.

Born in thirty-eight
my forty-three sounds recent,
a local man, he knows the country well
but sometimes struggles with a name.
I tell him how at fifteen I camped high here
with boys from school.

Do it again he says,
just pitch a little off the track,
why spoil it all from fear you’ll lose your stuff?
And then missing totally
his dry intended irony:
claim on your house insurance if its lost.

Yes, try Scafell too, up there,
he points with the stick,
to the long screed incline that stretches
up from the waters’ edge.
Yes you’ve time…
you’ve time before the light fails.

2 thoughts on “Old Man at Angle Tarn

  1. “just pitch a little off the track,
    why spoil it all from fear you’ll lose your stuff?”

    Indeed–why do we think it so desirable to “be on track” all the time?

    The landscape suffuses the poem–one of your great strengths, methinks. Kind of like that Wordsworth guy. x


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