Norman Nicholson (1914-1987) spent nearly his entire life in Millom, Cumbria. He used these lines from W. H. Auden's Epistle to a Godson as the epigraph to his collection Sea to the West (1981):
'I'm having five minutes,' he said,
Fitting the shelter of the cobble wall
Over his shoulders like a cape. His head
Was wrapped in a cap as green
As the lichened stone he sat on. The winter wind
Whined in the ashes like a saw,
And thorn and briar shook their red
Badges of hip and haw;
The fields were white with smoke of blowing lime;
Rusty iron brackets of sorel stood
In grass grey as the whiskers round an old dog's nose.
'Just five minutes,' he said;
And the next day I heard that he was dead,
Having five minutes to the end of time.
"Five Minutes" appeared in The Pot Geranium (1954). His 1972 collection, A Local Habitation, takes its name from these lines in A Midsummer Night's Dream: ". . . and gives to airy nothing/A local habitation and a name." Here is "Old Man at a Cricket Match":
'It's mending worse,' he said,
Bending west his head,
Strands of anxiety ravelled like old rope,
Skitter of rain on the scorer's shed
His only hope.
Seven down for forty-five,
Catches like stings from a hive,
And every man on the boundary appealing --
An evening when it's bad to be alive,
And the swifts squealing.
Yet without boo or curse
He waits leg-break or hearse,
Obedient in each to law and letter --
Life and the weather mending worse,
Or worsening better.