The Old Ringer


I sat awhile upon a bench
Beneath two gnarled Oak trees,
Buds were bursting leaves unfurled
Like insects from a chrysalis curled,
To spread their wings and face the world
Gently shimmering in the breeze.

A wild rose twined among the boughs,
Rain splashed blossom faced the sun
Warmed the sweetly scented air
And brightly coloured Foxgloves there
And Bluebells nod in hedgerows where
They had grown since time begun.

An old man walked with shuffling gait,
Along the path beside the stream,
He sat beside me in the shade
His gloves and cap beside him laid
He nodded, but his eyes had strayed
Across the village green.

Rough lichened walls of flaking stone
Bound the churchyard to the green,
A cobbled path wound round the pond
Up to the lychgate and beyond
Pass the gravestones old and worn,
Until the church porch could be seen.

A studded door of solid oak
In ivy covered buttressed walls,
Imposing Norman arches framed
Leaded lights and windows stained,
Stone pillars bleached by wind and rain
And the steeple, towering over all.

My train of thought was broken
As the sound of bells revealed,
A mellow peal of heavy eight
About the green reverberate,
Some came and listened at their gate,
As they rang them up in peal.

The rousing call of church bells
Strikes the heart of village ways,
For those to service, they address
A joy, to wedding couples blessed
A mournful toll, when laid to rest
The changing bells relay.

Good striking that the old man said
A peal of spliced they`ll ring,
The bells are changing out of rounds
And if you listen to the sound,
The trebles dodging up and down
And they`ve turned the tenor in.

I mind the day I learnt to ring,
He turned and said to me,
I was just a lad, t`was just before
The outbreak of the first world war,
Each week I went to the tower door
And waited quiet as could be.

A year or more on practice night
I went, like on a mission,
One day the captain said to me
Your turn lad, now let us see
If you can ring, come take the three
Stand straight! Look sharp! And listen!

For fifty years or more I rang
For evensong and matins
There`s a pride of teamwork from within
Although I never could begin
The methods that these people ring
It might as well be writ in Latin.

I saw his lined unshaven face
His eyes were bright with memories,
Gaitered legs, long laced up boots
Tweed waistcoat, once a Sunday suit
Wind burnt skin showed farming roots,
As brown as Autumn leaves.

As the bells came round and lowered down
We talked of this and that and t`other,
Then he stiffly rose and walked away,
But stopped awhile and turned to say
“I`m glad there`s ringers still today,
With the patience to teach other`s.”