Orm Gamalson


kirkdale compositions



Orm Gamalson

Fast the feather lay

Like a sulky jewel in my head

Till I knew it had fallen in a holy place:

Therefore I raised these grey stones up again

- Herbert Read, Kirkdale

Or rather, did some distant English priest,

beardless and pallid,

shadowed by his cowl,

resenting your ruddy skin and your wild pale hair,

make you feel foreign in old Gamal's farm -

though begotten in Yorkshire, born as well as he

and bred among these English moors and dales?


And did he, this tonsured priest - turned sour maybe

by Advent fasting

or the living's dearth,

resenting your belly and your well-fleshed haunch -

pin guilt on you for your lands and for your wealth

usurped and plundered by some far-back viking kin -

albeit yours by lawful inheritance?


Did he insinuate that there were ways

to gain a place above

reach of reproach?

And did you at last sell out, Orm Gamalson?

Or rather, thinking in market terms, buy in -

into the stock of the righteous company,

into a share in the English hierarchy?


Only a churl would dare reproach you now.

Your Minster rose - still stands -

beside Hodge Beck.

And proud enough of your fine Norse name you were

to inscribe it there with Gregory's and with Christ's ...

And Edward's, the dubious confessor-king,

And Tosti's, the lawless and shortly-outlawed earl.


Copyright S. A. J. Bradley 2001