Walk the Dales with Manley Hopkins

Brown are the winter downed mounds of Ling,
Down and brown like the tumbling Meadow Pipit’s.
Ground bound these players of hide and seek.
More easily spied when they speak,
Than when they move, than when they fly,
Trying then to avoid predacious eyes,
Borne high and wide on wider wings.
Best to be quiet, best not to sing.

Stone walls lie long amongst the fields,
The cast-off carcasses of long past giants,
Their ribs desiccated by fearsome winds,
Now provide shelter for shear-waiting sheep,
Fungi flesh fleece afloat the toadflax sprinkled fields.

At every pitch, toss and turn man’s man-made scars are revealed.
Stitched, sewn, and pitched into this “natural” landscape.
Winding roads and yawning quarries carve deep into former tree crowned hills.
Forests, whose remnants dance with late winter winds,
Their scraggly, dangling branches swaying like crones’ hair,
Yet, when the sun sets, others glow with the orange heat of an anvil fire,
While brethren bear dampened limbs bearing coats of moss dark green.
Others, lichens, nurtured by twisting brooks that once fed the mill wheels,
Limestone chilled streams that now feed Grey Herons and russet Goosanders,
Hunters that meander to dry their wings on waterworks of steel.

Here the vicar Dipper dips and coiled spring Deer limbs leap,
Here, in hamlet imaginations in cold caves Dragons still sleep,
High above the railway lines that run silent and deep.
Both fire-breathing behemoths,
Once glorious gifts, that history now keeps.

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