Monday, November 12, 2012

Norman Nicholson

Norman Nicholson (1914—1987) is a British poet closely associated with the mining town of Millom on the edge of the Lake District. He lived most of his life in the same house where he was born. At age 22 he became committed to Christian faith, which grew in him as a strong influence on his life and writing.

Although he lived far from influential literary centres, he received many honours, including the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1977, and being made an OBE in 1981. His work has been praised by T.S. Eliot, Ted Hughes, and Seamus Heaney. The Norman Nicholson Society was established in his hometown in 2006.

The Burning Bush

When Moses, musing in the desert, found
The thorn bush spiking up from the hot ground,
And saw the branches on a sudden bear
The crackling yellow barberries of fire,

He searched his learning and imagination
For any logical, neat explanation,
And turned to go, but turned again and stayed
And faced the fire and knew it for his God.

I too have seen the briar alight like coal,
The love that burns, the flesh that’s ever whole,
And many times have turned and left it there,
Saying: “It’s prophecy–but metaphor.”

But stinging tongues like John the Baptist shout:
“That this is metaphor is no way out.
It’s dogma too, or you make God a liar;
The bush is still a bush, and fire is a fire.”

Scafell Pike

Along the well
Of the street,
Between the gasworks and the neat
Sparrow stepped gable
Of the Catholic chapel,
Above the tilt and crook
Of the tumbledown
Roofs of the town-
Scafell Pike,
The tallest hill in England.

How small it seems,
So far away,
No more than a notch
On the plate-glass window of the sky!
A puff of kitchen smoke
Block out peak and pinnacle -
Rock-pie of volcanic lava
Half a mile thick
Scotched out
At the click of an eye.

Look again
In five hundred, a thousand or ten
Thousand years:
A ruin where
The chapel was; brown
Rubble and scrub and cinders where
The Gasworks used to be;
No roofs, no town,
Maybe no men;
But yonder where a lather rinse of
cloud pours down
The spiked wall of the sky-line, see,
Scafell Pike
Still there.

This is the first Kingdom Poets post about Norman Nicholson: second post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: