Wednesday, 5 February 2014


“Death is better than slavery.” - Harriet Ann Jacobs

Poetry Jam this week has invited participants to write a tribute poem to honour someone, famous or not, who is nevertheless admired and is worthy of praise. The poem below was written after I watched a documentary on serf labourers, so common in many rural situations in Europe until the late 19th century. These people were no better than slaves and their life was long struggle for survival under cruel circumstances where the bondsmen had no rights and no avenue to appeal against whatever ill-treatment they received.

Most of us have family trees that are of fairly ordinary wood and which include ancestors who are common people of no other distinction than a will to survive in adverse circumstances. My poem is a tribute to those forebears who have lived and survived and whose issue we are.

With Eyes Closed

With eyes closed firmly, I sit and ponder,
Thinking of you, my distant forebear;
My thoughts unhindered run and wander
Through all the common history we share.

Your name, your fate and date of death
Is all I know; but that for me is ample
To give your picture life and breath,
So that I draw strength from your example.

You had a dream, you lived your life
Battling with dragons, just to survive;
Your children to protect, your wife –
And proof of your success, is that I thrive.

A yellowed photograph, your tattered bible,
The names of my ancestors written there;
A wooden statuette – memories ancient, tribal,
Enough to make me offer thankful prayer…

I have you in my heart, and give respect,
And through the ages we touch souls, connect;
Your blood flows in my veins and I bear fruits
Proud of your struggle, my heritage, my roots.


  1. What a fine tribute to your ancestors, Nick. So often a person does not appreciate all that has been endured by those who lived before us, without whom we would not be here today, about whom we really know so little. The line "Proof of your success is that I thrive" moved me greatly, and I thought about how much work it actually was just to SURVIVE in those bygone days. These people deserve TRIBUTE/ RECOGNITION indeed!

  2. I draw strength from your example... we do, don't we? A lovely tribute, Nick.

  3. Wonderful tribute to your ancestor, Nick! I like the way you express your gratitude to this man. The yellow photographs and object of his that you own are priceless.

  4. This is a very beautiful tribute . I love the "memories ancient, tribal". I often think of the long line of ancestors who walked here before me - a hundred years back and before, life was very hard. I have ancestors who lived through the potato famine in Ireland, and others who worked laying the first railroad across North America - by hand. You have written a wonderful tribute to those hardy souls.

  5. This is very powerful that feeling of connection, hands touching across the centuries, blood flowing in veins, I love how you have used this to be a tribute to those who have played their part in your life.

  6. So true about ancestors--and the greatest part of the sea of them is undoubtedly made up of common people who won by just surviving. Good tribute.

  7. This has tones of my offering of tribute to my grandfather this week. Great tribute to ancestors! Loved " I draw strength from your example".

  8. love this tribute to your ancestors.

  9. A very moving poem and tribute Nicholas

  10. we are here because of those that were here before us. I love this tribute

  11. You can feel the pride and thanks with each passing line. Touching.

  12. Nick a very thoughtful and clever take on the prompt. We all owe gratitude to those who came before. And we don't often think of that. Nicely done.