Fire, Forge and Furnace


‘The Smith’: Illus.from’The Book Of English Trades’, Museum of English Ryral Life, Reading University.


It began with the furnace
When limping Hephaestus
tamed his volcanic forge,
before Prometheus
poached fire,
and brought to mankind,
his creation,
those skills of
 inspired artistry
 in metal and the arts,
for which he suffered
until, released, liver-less,
 from his eagle-torn fate

So, his legacy,
passed on to the smith,
farrier, blacksmith, metalworker,
a noble calling
worthy trade
artist in iron
his skill
portrayed in metal
wrought within the fire
of Vulcan’s heart

Bent over the anvil
he finds his future
his art is in iron
his heart lies there too
the kiln his spirit
the anvil his easel
tongs his palette knife
his hammer his brush

Rendering and wrenching
forcing his will
on that malleable metal
moulding with skill
stroking the steel
forming shape
to match imagination
to meet a need
create a masterwork
from his mind’s ferment

The furnace,
bellowed into life,
bright burning coals
in heat and fusion
throw shadows all around
as if their flickering flames
are desperate to escape
and return
to the place of their birth –
the fiery inferno
in Vulcan’s heart.







I Remember The Bellows


I grew up in a staunch Methodist household, the son of the village blacksmith and farrier, living and working on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors.

Two abiding memories of my early years were –

 on weekdays, of pumping the bellows to maintain the heat of the fire in my father’s forge, and

 on Sundays, of being concealed behind the chapel organ, pumping the bellows to maintain the air to the pipes during the hymn singing.

For good or ill, BELLOWS thus became a significant part of my childhood, and I recently recalled these formative experiences in the following, light-hearted verses.




Arms activate,

Biceps bulge.

I remember the bellows.

Let my memory indulge.


The forge and the furnace bellows2

The farrier’s tools.

His anvil, his hammers,

His tongs and ferrules.


I build up the heat

Till the iron is blood-shot,

And molten and moulded –

Into what shape I know not.


The pipes and the console,EarlyPumpOrgan

The organist’s tools.

His feet and his fingers

Obey all the rules.


I build up the wind

In the pipes till they sound

Out their diapason

To all those around.


It’s weekdays the smithy,

And Sundays the Chapel.

A slave to them both,

And all that for an apple.


Whilst I labour discretely,

And pump up and down,

They can’t do without me –

Best  aerator in town.