In all our sanctuaries we sit at risk

Severn Shorts


I am getting to know the River Severn. A longish poem about it is already up among the “collected works” on the right (“Of My Neighbour the Severn”)

Here below are some later brief impressions, or experiences, of the Severn’s nature.

The picture above was taken by Nicola Knoop.



  And I did a silly thing      

         (at Arlingham)


And I did a silly thing

and I’m ashamed of it now

I carried my son across the river

where the ford used to be

but I got it wrong

and crossed a few yards

too far down and suddenly

felt nothing underfoot no

passage and the water

pulled at us with shocking force

but I found my way

out of our trouble

by swimming like crazy

and so I hauled us

onto the far bank, blowing hard.

And this old man was sitting

right there on a bench

and he’d been watching us

and he pointed at the church close by 

and said : that graveyard there

is full of silly buggers like you.


The poem above is an approximate record of a story told me by the swimmer, elderly now.


                  The Severn Bore

                    near Framilode


Sometimes the Severn shakes itself like a hound

to cast off that mud, those millenia,

those furies pent, but we see only

the wrinkles along its back

escape and race at speed towards Gloucester

pursued by excited surfers and photographers

and the occasional poet, with crowds roaring

along its bank, until at last

the whole arrangement settles back in place again

and the sea-gulls relax and resume their squabbles

and the currents and cross-currents return

to their accustomed turmoils and all the arguments

we know so well continue where they left off.


             The Ravening Flood

                      near Aust


My picture of rivers is Wind

In the Willows, the Itchen through Winchester,

the Test through Stockbridge – all clarity,

gurgle and fishing rights. My kind of river

penetrates the Hampshire style of countryside,

twinkling politely as it goes. Saint Cross ,

for example – good for picnics. The swans there agree.

Enjoy your sandwiches, they say. We’ll pose for you

among the reeds. The Severn has never learned

polite, only powerful, disordered,

multiple and muddy, and when the time

comes to become Atlantic, it surges

into the grey salt water like a ravening flood

arriving home.


                                                                        Rogan Wolf