The poetry that Norman taught us


N. S. 1926 – 2007

Norman’s funeral today.

Since hearing of his death I have realised how strange the landscape of manx art is without him. His wonderful paintings sing on, though no new ones will appear for our minds to delight in. I miss him already. He excavated our landscape. Crafted with his weather eye for the extraordinary, his paintings are gems to be treasured.

N.S… sleep in Brides bright bosom, an earthgrip of tenderness for one of Mann such as you.

A favorite poem he would share with students and friends was The Ruin. Norman loved the word Earthgrip. We love it too.


Well-wrought this wall: Wierds broke it,
The stronghold burst….

Snapped rooftrees, towers fallen,
the work of the Giants, the stonesmiths,

Rime scoureth gatetowers
rime on mortar.

Shattered the showershields, roofs ruined,
age under-ate them.
And the wielders & wrights?
Earthgrip holds them – gone, long gone,
fast in gravegrasp while fifty fathers
and sons have passed.
Wall stood,
grey lichen, red stone, kings fell often,
stood under storms, high arch crashed –
stands yet the wallstone, hacked by weapons,
by files grim-ground…
….shone the old skilled work
….sank to loam-crust.

Mood quickened mind, and a man of wit,
cunning in rings, bound bravely the wallbase
with iron, a wonder.

Bright were the buildings, halls where springs ran,
high, horngabled, much throng-noise;
these many meadhalls men filled
with loud cheerfulness: Wierd changed that.

Came days of pestilenece, on all sides men fell dead,
death fetched off the flower of the people;
where they stood to fight, waste places
and on the acropolis, ruins.

Hosts who would build again
shrank to the earth. Therefore are these courts dreary
and that red arch twisteth tiles.
wryeth from roof-ridge, reacheth groundwards…
Broken blocks…

There once many a man
mood-glad, goldbright, of gleams garnished,
flushed with wine-pride, flashing war-gear,
gazed on wrought gemstones, on gold, on silver,
on wealth held and hoarded, on light-filled amber,
on this bright burg of broad dominion.

Stood stone houses; wide streams welled
hot from source, and a wall all caught
in its bright bosom, that the baths were
hot at hall’s hearth; that was fitting…

Thence hot streams, loosed, ran over hoar stone
unto the ring-tank….
…It is a kingly thing

Translated by Michael Alexander.

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