Poetry Map of Scotland: poem no. 310

A River-Spate

One short stream, crossing the moors and fields
of Galloway, favoured by greyback salmon
and the anglers who go after them, calls out,
demanding fame equal to that of any Rubicon,
or Thames, or Huang Ho, or Amazon, or Clyde,
or other river of the world:
the Urr.
Clerk Maxwell had his nursery and school,
and found a wide universe to picture, number,
write and read.
modern thought changed course
because of him, and gathered speed.

Downstream, and under a bridge,
out of sight, then seen once more,
the boy’s dropped paper-boat performed
an agile bob and swerve.
it echoed the sea-ward progress
of the River Urr.

The boy looked hard,
as he always would.
his sharp mind running on,
until he fully understood.

What’s the go o’ that?
he asked, regarding everything.
Finding an answer became his passion,
and a growing skill.

Out from the valley of his childhood years,
he travelled boundlessly through libraries and labs,
aiming always further than the tangible,
the visible, the near.
Dæmon-like, he circumnavigated space,
riding the flow of Nature’s powers.

Death could not halt Clerk Maxwell’s thought.
At quickening rate,
it runs through others’ lives,
re-writing how phenomena are seen,
changing the world, a river-spate.

David Betteridge

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