Danger: Keep Back


Soon my father will lose his wedding ring . . .
Opening line, The Ring ~ Andrew Motion,

I’m intrigued by Andrew Motion’s classic poem,
The Ring — a story within a story. He describes
weather conditions and potential risks he and his
father might face as they hike a path along a cliff edge
overlooking the North Sea. It is a dangerous area, with
posted warnings. The trail has been undermined by
eroding actions of the waves beneath.

The poet’s father cautions a “big storm“ could send
rocks tumbling down along the path, endangering them.
A “quickly-rising tide” could ring them and bring the
cliff face down, throwing them into the sea —
possibly drown them.

Motion sees no signs of a storm or movement of the tides.
He watches foam-crowned waves gently ring shore rocks.
His thoughts suggest an accommodation of his father’s
ominous worst-case possibilities, intimating acceptance
of a tendency on the part of his father to advance dire outcomes.

Heedfully they continue along the cliff top, slowly descend
the tortuous path to the seashore, where the weather is freezing.
His father takes off his wedding ring, fearing the cold would
shrink his finger and the ring might slip off, as the path would
slip away if captured within the ring of a charging tide.

Motion’s father looks back at the dizzying decline of the path,
the scattered rocks, the caress of the waves below. Tired,
he rests on one of the many large stones delivered up
to the beach from the North Sea bed. Out to sea there is no
“big storm” or “quickly-rising tide.” This is where the tale ends.

It is never stated his father lost his ring on the hike
or possibly sometime after. The poet does say his father
“never finds his ring.” Left up to the reader to decide?

Andrew Motion never explains why he and his father were
hiking in such a perilous location, odd.

(Sir Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1999 to 2009).

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This Poems Story

A poet and his father hike above the North Sea.