The Climber

inspired by and dedicated to Chris Bonington and my erstwhile heroes Don Whillans and Dougal Haston

He has conquered crags and chimneys
Only eagles would have seen
And the frozen lofty kingdoms
Where the blizzard reigns supreme
He has traversed mighty mountains
Through the rockfall and the scree
Where the elements do battle
And the eyes can barely see.

He has struck a hundred base camps
Long before the sun arose
Many fellows may have shuddered
At the challenge that he chose
As he contemplates ascending
On a sheer and slippery wall
Starkly rising and malevolent
It shouts its silent call.

He is leader and explorer
He has travelled near and far
And his legendary exploits
Are regaled in every bar
He’s the quintessential rock star
Strong as iron and tough as teak
When he chooses his companions
There is no place for the weak.

He has held the faithful spellbound
Now they follow in his wake
Knowing well the awful consequence
Of just one slight mistake
And aware that mother nature
When she starts to misbehave
Will distinguish not the foolish
From the bravest of the brave.

He has heard the voice of freedom
Felt the pull of foreign lands
And won respect from everyone
Entrusted to his hands
Throughout his trials and triumphs
To his own self he’s been true
He has reached the last great summit
He’s a climberthrough and through.

 

 

Old Mates

He wasn’t much to look at as he stood there by the rail
Beside the towering cenotaph he looked quite small and frail
But as his gaze upon the names engraved before him fell
It was as if he’d heard the chimes of some far distant bell.

He rose to full attention as his old eyes filled with tears
His back was straight, his stature proud as ’twas in former years
The echoes of his mind recalled a face to every name
Each one a mate he’d left behind who’d not return again.

Yet every year at this same dawn, he’d visit with them here
And in his mind they’d have a yarn, a joke, a laugh, a beer
And for a fleeting time it was a great and glorious thing
To turn life’s long cold winter back into its former spring.

But far too soon it all comes backthe shock, the hellish noise
The guns, the shells, the blood, the screams, the bodies of the boys
How he survived he never knew, so many mates he’d lost
So great a sacrifice they madeand well he knows the cost.

Then slowly comes a knowing smile that fronts a silent prayer
That one day soon he’ll join them in their great Eternal care
So proudly now he stands before the cenotaph today
And gives one last salute—before he turns and walks away.

 

 

The Star

I was sitting by the quayside, on a rocky harbour wall
The midnight hour had come and gone, as far as I recall.
I watched a star descending in the clear, crystal night
Deep into the far horizon, like a jewel, spangled bright.

As it slowly kissed the skyline, I perceived its brightness dim
In its mellow, calm surrender to the planetary rim.
She was one of many millions that presided o’er the deep
To survey her abdication from the nightfall’s starry keep…

‘Twas a thing of stunning beauty, as I pondered on her fate
So unto her dying glory I was prompted to relate.
She had reigned in perfect dignity for her appointed span
As, in all of his achievements, is the duty of a man.

Ah! his power, glory, riches, rise as but a fleeting thing
Like the passing of the shadow from a seagull on the wing.
Then his years become as nothing, for his fragile deeds are slight
When compared with this enchantress… shining diamond of the night!

She will rise again tomorrow, in the firmament above
And, beneath her, men will testify their everlasting love.
And I… when I at last fulfil the number of my days
Shall watch her cross the skies once more, and bid her tranquil rays…

To shine upon my resting place, that in its gentle lee
My soul beholds the vision of an iridescent sea.
Where the mighty ocean witnesses the astral rise and fall
Let my spirit gaze in wonder… from a rocky harbour wall.

© Rod Walford

 

 

Rod Walford is an Englishman living in Auckland, New Zealand and has been writing poetry for some 25 years. He is a semi-retired diesel fuel injection engineer. He has self-published several books of rhyming poetry including “Timeless,” “Real Poetry for Real Women (written by a man),” and “One Hour before the Dawn.” Access his website here: www.rodwalfordpoetry.com


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20 Responses

  1. Russel Winick

    Thank you sir, for blessing me with arising to these wonderful poems.

    Reply
  2. Sultana Raza

    Just to say that though The Climbers is about ascending, your words make it very easy to slide smoothly down the poem till the end. Also, the calm contemplation in The Star makes for smooth sailing across the sky, along with the narrator’s thoughts. Of course, if the star is really another heavenly body, the hero of the narrator, his own destiny, or all three in one is another question altogether.

    Reply
    • Rod Walford

      Thank you Joe, Russel, Peter and Sultana for your kind words – very much appreciated.
      Sultana – to address your take on “The Star” – it’s becoming increasingly popular these days to be told “it can mean whatever you want it to mean” but at the time of writing it was nothing more than an illustration of my own feelings drawing a comparison with our astral surroundings. It remains one of my personal favourites 🙂

      Reply
  3. C.B. Anderson

    Rod,

    Now that we have ascertained that everyone enjoys your yarns, let me, for a minute or two, discuss your metric plan in the first poem. The first line is perfect trochaic tetrameter. The second line is catalectic trochaic tetrameter. The third line replicates the first line, though some prosodists might insist that a pyrrhic foot was substituted for the initial trochee. Line 4 matches line 2 perfectly. Line 5 introduces an element that’s difficult to analyze. It begins with two iambs and concludes with two trochees. I don’t know whether John Milton would have approved, but there it is. I am inclined to think that this poem is meant to be sung, because music’s meter simply rolls over spoken meter. In conclusion, I think you’ve done a fine job of installing musicality into this poem. I’ll leave the latter two poems alone because, at this point, I think my perorations have become tedious for most readers. But I will add this: the seen/supreme rhyme is dubious. Nasal consonants rhyme imperfectly, at best.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      The last line should be more perfectly rendered: Dissimilar nasal consonants rhyme imperfectly, at best.

      Reply
      • Rod Walford

        Thank you C.B. for your for your in-depth analysis . I really hope you include yourself in the ranks of “everyone” in your first line. I wrote “The Climber” primarily as a tribute poem and I confess that any connection with musicality is more by coincidence than intention. When I completed the work it occurred to me that it might be suitable for a funeral and within a very short time I did receive an email asking if it might be recited at the funeral of a U.S. climber. Needless to say I was honoured to agree and I later heard it was very well received ( there was an audible murmur of appreciation from the congregation when the line about being “regaled at every bar” was reached!) Whilst I do appreciate your comments C.B. I have to say many of them are over my head. I have never studied poetry in-depth. I just write what comes to me and if folk enjoy reading it, if it stirs their emotions or reduces them to tears then I know I have achieved what I set out to do. You are right, of course, about the seen/supreme rhyme. I can only fall back on the old adage “It seemed like a good idea at the time!” Kind regards
        Rod

    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Mr. Anderson,
      It seems to me it’s the poet’s insistent “iambism” that throws one off most, at lines 16 (It shouts its silent call), 22 (where “iron” must be taken as a single syllable), and 35-38. In a more pliant iambic milieu these exceptions would not succeed so readily in tripping one up. But your observation about a song rendition, in popular style, applies to the instances I mention, as it does also to the false rhyme you cite.

      Reply
  4. Dave Whippman

    Skilfully written poems. “Old Mates” movingly reminds us of what we owe to the generation that fought Hitler.

    Reply
    • Rod

      You’re right Dave. Nothing I,nor anyone else, could write would ever repay that debt. But I think poetry is a fine remembrance medium.

      Reply
  5. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    What a trio of poetic treats, Rod. Having grown up with news of Chris Bonington’s triumphs, I love “The Climber”. It does this heroic daredevil’s dangerous feats every justice. I particularly like this smile of a line; “He’s the quintessential rock star”. “The Star”, with its many beautiful lines, reminds me of how short our time beneath the stars is, and to make the most of my every moment. My favourite is “Old Mates”, which captures the heart of a hero and makes me wholly grateful. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Rod Walford

      Thank you Susan – it’s both encouraging and rewarding to know that you enjoyed all three. I have a strong feeling that, like me, you tend to focus on the spiritual side of poetry rather than strict adherence to the letter of the law. Sometimes whilst reading through comments I am reminded of the Pharisees whose strict following of the law landed them in hot water with Jesus. The phrase “whitewashed sepulchres” comes to mind!

      Reply
      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        While I have a great deal of respect for rules surrounding both meter and rhyme, I believe, when it comes down to the wire, word choice should always come first. For me, for the sake of the right word, rules should be bent. A clunky, out of place word could turn humour to tragedy or make a seductive verse snigger worthy. A slightly off end rhyme won’t have this effect and is therefore secondary. This Douglas Bader quote says it all perfectly; “Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men”, and, Rod, your poetry tells me you’re far from a fool.

  6. Margaret Coats

    Much enjoyed reading this group of different stories and their different moods, yet sharing the distinctive touch of one author. The selection works well together!

    Reply
    • Rod Walford

      Thank you Margaret – I’m pleased you noted that they are an eclectic group as I was wanting to see how they would “work” together. And I’m equally pleased that you found them enjoyable.

      Reply
  7. Rod Walford

    Well Susan I wouldn’t argue with Douglas ! I could rename “The Star” as “Reach for the Sky” in his honour!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis

      What a beautiful idea, Rod. I’m sure this indisputable hero would nod from the heavens in smiling agreement!

      Reply
  8. Rod Walford

    Sultana – thank you I thought that poem by Keats was So beautiful. If I hadn’t known better I could have sworn is was one of Byron’s ! I shall have to read more Keats.

    Reply

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