John Anthony Fingleton
Reading in the poem entitled “Rainbow Bridge” By John Anthony Fingleton
It once bore the feet of Legions,
Hadrian’s armies of the North.
The raiding cries of Norsemen,
And the humble horse and cart.
Lovers out for an evening stroll;
Children throwing pebbles for a splash,
Those leaving for the New World –
That never would come back.
Its stones show some incisions,
Of many an obscure name,
That once in the distance past,
Held some local fame.
Others are now long gone,
To repair some dry stone local walls,
Or build up a farmers cow shed,
Strong and firm against the storms.
The evening I discovered it,
Its sadly seemed to sigh,
As if it wished it was a rainbow –
Arching in the sky.
There was a loneliness in its beauty,
Majestic in decay,
Its reflection in the flowing river,
Hinting the glory of yesterday.
It is worth mentioning that the title of a poem often assumes a certain importance for it may paint the reader a picture that gives him a specific time frame, setting or action and lead him to the multiple possibilities that the poem likely hides among its layers. So, “Rainbow Bridge” the title given by the Irish poet, John Anthony Fingleton to his poem is considered a rich referential treasure, in that it, first, refers to the mythical crossing that separates between the earth and heaven, and the only connection between them. Secondly, it refers to a real bridge that stands for the passing glories of some ancient civilizations.
The poem falls into three parts; each one consists of eight lines, written in the free verse, and represents an image; all of these three images are so closely related in a way as to shed light on the phases by which the rainbow bridge passed.
The first stanza depicts the glorious time of the rainbow bridge as a realistic bridge, which witnessed greater events taking place in the old times, it was a unique crossing for massive armies, it was so strong that it was able to bear their heavy weights, as it is personified in the first line of the poem:
“It once bore the feet of Legions”
This image of its strength and solidity is, then, emphasized when a direct reference to the Roman emperor “Hadrian” is made , which acts as a symbol and image that brings into reader’s mind the world of the Romans with all its rattling of battles;
“Hadrian’s armies of the north”
and then, by the metaphor of “The raiding cries of Norsemen”
Here, the words “ Hadrian” and “Norsemen” represent concrete images that reflect the Roman prosperous era, when the emperor Hadrian, when he assumed power, decided to end the empire foreign conquests and engaged himself as one of his prominent priorities, in the process of fortification of his country borders by building a huge wall along the north coastal border which is known as “Hadrian Wall”. These two public symbols sum up a much more larger sphere of the Roman achievement and interest. However, the rainbow bridge was not restricted to the armies crossings, it was also used as a crossing for the carts of ordinary people. It was a place of comfort and rest for lovers, where they spent their intimate moments in the evenings. It was also a place for children to play and enjoy their times, throwing pebbles in the river for a splash. Finally, it was the only crossing of those leaving for the New World, and would never come back. So, it is as much a place for life as a route for the dead in their ascending to the heaven. All of the aforesaid images are integrated together to reflect a shining image of the flourishing time of the bridge as a symbol of a great civilization.
While the second stanza reflects the image of the languishing time of the bridge, a collapsed bridge whose stones were either taken to repair some dry stone local walls or to build up a farmers cow shed, though some of them carried the names of the local rulers, who acquired a certain reputation and who might have demonstrated some sort of pride, arrogance and supremacy.
The first and second stanzas represent two contrasted images, one lies in the other; a flourish-in-languish.
The third stanza, as narrated by the poet, or by the “I” of the poem, who discovered the devastated status in which the rainbow bridge became, portrays its painful bitterness and as it is personified as an aching person who wanted to sigh so that his agonies could be lessened, and who wished to be a real rainbow bridge gloriously arching in the sky as it was in the time of prosperity and welfare.
Although, in this stanza, it appears ruined and lonely, it still reflects the beauty and majesty of its architecture, establishment and glory as its fascinating picture is reflected in the water of the flowing river tells.
It is to be noted that the poet cleverly presents his poem in the form of a compressed story and not in abstractions. Therefore, the reader may easily miss the message of the poem, if he, the reader, reads it as about a rainbow bridge. It should be read it as all rounded a poem that it can be read, as per the reader’s awareness, as a tale of the rainbow bridge, and as a criticism for the world in which the poet lives warning its leaders that they will fall someday as the fall of this bridge and those who built it, however powerful and arrogant they were, and it can be also read about a life-death game as long as the title and the flowing river in the last line represent two physical aspects of life and death; the rainbow bridge represents the only passage for those who leave life for the afterlife, while the river represents life as it ceaselessly runs, without paying any attention to who comes and goes or what happens or does not happen. Finally, it is a deep reflection on life, which however long or short it is, it passes through one route, the Rainbow Bridge.
John Anthony Fingleton
John Anthony Fingleton: Was born in Cork City, in the Republic of Ireland. Now living in Paraguay South America. Poems published in journals and anthologies in Ireland, UK, USA, India and France as well as three plays produced. Poet of the Year (2016) Destiny Poets International Community. Poems read on Irish and American radio as well in Spanish on South American broadcasts. Contributed to four books of poetry for children. Has poems published in Spillwords, Alien Bhudda, The Red Door, Piker Press,Super Poetry Highway, The Writers Magazine, Ariel Chart and numerous national and international journals, blogs, reviews, and anthologies.
Poet of the Month (March 2019) Our Poetry Archive. Poet of the Month (April 2019) The League of Poets. First solo collection ´Poems from the Shadowlands´ was published in November 2017, ‘Words That Found Me’ December 2019, ‘Poems From The Banks’ January 2020, ‘Poems from a Restricted Place’ April 2020 and ‘Secret Fjords’ May 2020. All which are all available on Amazon.
Reviewed by Henry Smith ( Lateef Dhmayd)