Sunday, February 06, 2011

A Farewell to Mountaineering

A notable contribution to a request for mountain poetry:
When I was about 20, my English grandmother introduced me to a 91-year-old friend, an old village vicar who had long retired. He was just about blind, bent and shriveled, but he still had a curious mind and quizzed me about what I had been doing. I've been in Wales, I said, climbing. He shuffled over to his dresser and out came album after album of his mountaineering photos from the days of hemp ropes and hard men. He didn't give me the photos (god, I wish I could get at them now), but he did give me a copy of this poem, a farewell, as he called it, which he wrote at age 90. His name was Herbert Bell.

Dancing, dancing, I wish to die dancing,
Fully to use my limbs, which have carried me
Facing from rock to rock
In dark and dawn, sunrise and sunset,
Seeking we knew not what, only to move further and further
From dull convention's rule.
Three times I slipped, and nearly fell and died.
So would my days have ended,
Killed by too much vigour wrongly placed.
Dancing and ever dancing
Sometimes in excess of misery, unsupported, and unappreciated.
Yet I gave my best, Yet not always my best,
For the true dancer glories not in himself,
But in the fine pattern, paired with his partner
So that the whole may make a perfect figure,
One with the universe of life and being.

So Moses slipped away, when he knew that his work was done,
To die in his desert mountain. I would rather slip away
Dancing in our crowded island.
Let there be no mourning when I go.
You and I are old. The bonds of love must be untied.
Love is eternal, Sweet moments make life stronger.

1 comment:

mdmnm said...

I don't climb, but don't have to say- Bravo! That is just fine.