Tuesday Poem: Norman Nicholson - Wall

The wall walks the fell -
Grey millipede on slow
Stone hooves;
Its slack back hollowed
At gulleys and grooves,
Or shouldering over
Old boulders
Too big to be rolled away.
Fallen fragments
Of the high crags
Crawl in the walk of the wall . . .

A wall walks slowly,
At each give of the ground,
Each creak of the rock's ribs,
It puts its foot gingerly,
Arches its hog-holes,
Lets cobble and knee-joint
Settle and grip.
As the slipping fellside
Erodes and drifts,
The wall shifts with it,
Is always on the move.

They built a wall slowly,
A day a week;
Built it to stand.
But not stand still.
They built a wall to walk.

Copyright Norman Nicholson
from Sea to the West, Faber & Faber, 1981

The 1st December was the official publication date of Norman Nicholson:  The Whispering Poet, now out in paperback and on Kindle.  The paperback is one of those 'enhanced' ones with fold-in flaps and lots of illustrations.  It's been a labour of love to write, since I couldn't get any of the major publishers interested, so all the research has been funded by me.  But it's been a pleasure. I love his poetry.  He writes about the Lake District I know well - the landscape I grew up in.  This poem is particularly special - I helped my father many a time (as they say in Cumbria) to repair the stone walls that walked our farm boundaries.  They scale precipitous hillsides in ways that defy gravity - erratic boulders left by the glaciers are simply built into them, just as Norman describes.

And I love this Andy Goldsworthy sculpture (New York state), which takes its inspiration and title from Norman's poem - Taking a Wall for a Walk

If you'd like to see what other Tuesday Poets are posting around the world, please click on the link to the main Tuesday Poem site and check them out!

Norman Nicholson:  The Whispering Poet is available on Amazon at the special introductory price of £8.50 and also on Kindle.


  1. Oh, what gentle memories, Kathleen. Congratulations on your new publication! Just fabulous news. I love the poem, too - particularly the painting of the joints, knees and other body parts of the wall.

  2. Congratulations on your labour of love Kathleen. Love the images of the walking wall in the poem. And the photo and sculpture which complement it so beautifully. Thank you. Go the book!

  3. Just bought the ebook to add to my Kindle collection of treasures to read when I go to Cornwall for Christmas - a lonely Christmas despite the presence of my daughter and grandchildren because my beloved David won't be there.


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