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A Walk in the Mist

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  • A Walk in the Mist

    'Tis a grim morning and yon grey mist
    Lies upon hill and dale and meadow
    Like the weeds of a new-made widow
    And clings fast like her grief-stiffened fist.

    These my musings before we broke camp
    On foot westwards from St Jean Pied,
    Seeing little of the path that led
    To Roncevaux, through the fog and damp.

    Nearby, the Pyrenean pass lay,
    Where Roland* waged war for Charlemagne.
    Long and hard did my eyes flex and strain
    In vain, for what still remains hearsay.

    Cheer was found in the shape of role play,
    With the parts of two of the horsemen
    Of the apocalypse, when now and then
    Our boots fed dust to our pilgrim prey.

    Like pins they fell till hard on our heels,
    A host we spied in the near distance.
    We scoffed humble pie till their advance
    Betrayed steel horses shod with two wheels!

    In relief, we tossed the pies aside;
    Lengthened our strides up the steep incline
    At the peak of which we paused to dine
    On bread and cheese and our restored pride.

    Full refreshed, we steered our charge downward
    Paying little heed to the laments
    Of our bones, tendons and ligaments;
    Sins which the gods hastened to reward.

    For when into Roncevaux we strode,
    We found a fortress from which escape
    Proved a futile feat; thus was the shape
    Of our thrall to the gods' penal code.

    The fort was an inn; the only one
    To be found in that tiny Basque town.
    We'd no choice but to set our gold down
    In the palms of men who served Mammon.

    We burst from the trap onto the plain
    When in the morn, our penance was spent.
    But we soon had reason to repent
    When the hoary mist turned to hostile rain!

    For once more, we provoked divine woe;
    With fury, we made them froth and foam,
    And our mishap lives on in the poem
    I've baptized 'The Rains of Roncevaux'**

    This poem tells of an adventure I had with my best friend whilst walking the Camino de Santiago last year - a route that traverses the north of Spain from the French border in the east to Santiago di Compostela (a shrine to St James) in the west.
    *This refers to the epic French Romantic poem 'The Song of Roland' which describes the Battle of Roncevaux Pass during which Roland fought valiantly but eventually lost his life in service to his uncle, King Charlemagne.
    ** 'The Rains of Ronceveaux' is a poem I've posted right after this.
    Last edited by Raoul D'Harmental; 05-27-2016, 02:55 AM.

  • #2
    Ah, now it makes much more sense - I read the poems in reverse order! But they stand alone too. This is wonderful Raoul! I've had friends do the Way, or parts of it, but none turned it into the lyric magic you've made here. Many thumbs up!


    • #3
      Hi RLW. Thank you! It's great to hear from someone who knows about The Way because unfortunately this poem sank like a stone when I showed it to my more sedentary colleagues who couldnt imagine what it was like. I'm planning to go back next year to finish it so I hope I have more tales. Perhaps see you there?


      • #4
        I don't know. I've heard only good things, despite the grueling nature of the path, but the spiritual pilgrimage idea does hold appeal. Some friends, a couple the same age as my husband and I, trained about four months before going, and it tested their mettle mightily. The other folks I know were in college. I'm glad it was such a great experience for you!


        • #5
          Very well written, Raoul, with an interesting mixture of old style, old story, with new style, new story.