Friday, July 21, 2006

The Horse Panel. Chauvet Cave, France: circa 30,000 BCE

The Horses

I climbed through the woods in the hour before-dawn dark.
Evil air, a frost-making stillness.

Not a leaf, not a bird -
A world cast in frost, I came out above the wood

Where my breath left tortuous statues in the iron light,
But in the valleys were draining the darkness

Till the moorline - blackening dregs of the brightening
grey -
Halved the sky ahead. And I saw the horses.

Huge in the dense grey - ten together -
Megalith-still. They breathed, making no move,

With draped manes and tilted hind-hooves,
Making no sound.

I passed: not one snorted or jerked his head.
Grey silent fragments

Of a grey world.

I listened in emptiness on the moor-ridge.
The curfew’s tear turned its edge on the silence.

Slowly detail I leafed from the darkness. Then the sun,
Orange, red, red erupted.

Silently, and splitting to its core tore and flung cloud,
Shook the gulf open, showered blue,

And the big planets hanging -
I turned

Stumbling in the fever of a dream, down towards
The dark woods, from the kindling tops,

And came to the horses.
They still they stood.

But now steaming and glistening under the flow of light,

Their draped stone manes, their tilted hind-hooves
Stirring under a thaw while all around them

The frost showed its fires. But still they made no sound.
Not one snorted and stamped.

Their hung heads patient as the horizons,
High over valleys, in the red levelling rays -

In the din of the crowded streets, going among the
Years, the faces,
May I still meet my memory in so lonely a place

Between the streams and the red clouds, hearing curfews,
Hearing the horizons endure.

Ted Hughes

Friday, July 14, 2006

From Jerusalem by William Blake


The stones are a doorway to the beyond
Where a single flame burns in the darkness.
Further in, a bonfire calling the sun:
The sun in splendour, behind a round hill
Embracing the moon, in love's ecstasy
Her tongues of fire, his shadow-tendrils

The radiant stones embrace all comers:
The hooded ones wait, holding the sacred,
Dreaming of the land; their wisdom enfolds
and holds the valley, keeping its secrets.
Bramble and elder twining together
Guard the mound's entrance. As we walk away
The waters of sleep close over the mound.

Yvonne Aburrow

The squared stone at Stanton Drew: Image credit Thelma Wilcox

Stanton Drew

First you dismantle the landscape.
Take away everything you first
Thought of. Trees must go,
Roads, of course, the church,
Houses, hedges, livestock, a wire
Fence. The river can stay,
But loses its stubby fringe
Of willows. What do you
See now? Grass, the circling
Mendip rim, with its notches
Fresh, like carving. A sky
Like ours, but empty along
Its lower levels. And earth
Stripped of its future, tilted
Into meaning by these stones,
Pitted and unemphatic. Re-create them.
They are the most permanent
Presences here, but cattle, weather
Archaeologists have rubbed against them.
Still in season they will
Hold the winter sun poised
Over Maes Knoll's white cheek,
Chain the moon's footsteps to
The pattern of their dance.
Stand inside the circle. Put
Your hand on stone. Listen
To the past's long pulse.

U A Fanthorpe

Thursday, July 13, 2006

But stone remains, while all will fade

Us, soldiers of the stony hearth

Us, soldiers of the stony hearth
Hewing homage to a crowded sky
Hanging heaven onto maiden Earth
Cut stone forever cannot die.

From us, builders, comes forth god
From us, darkness comes forth light
From us all is overawed.
Us, sculptured artists of the night.

Thirteen twelve's, a sacred number
Cut in stone in all we've made
All we've made is torn asunder,
But stone remains, while all will fade.

"Ah, Man! Your stone remains, but NOT forever.
All Rocks. All Man. All dust together."

Donny McIntyre

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Callanish by Henry James: circa 1866


To the stones again I go
I know what I will see
but this feeling always meets me
love and expectancy
dark looming mountains on the way
low rain clouds hang, ready to meet
with the land so full of water
not that much land actually
and the machair filled with flowers
cotton white, like snow to be
spread on and on forever, so heavenly

Then it's there, proud on the hilltop
stands tall and bold for all to see
Calanais sits awaiting
how many visitors will there be
to revere and be amazed
that it has stood for all those days
and what purpose has it played
in its own history?

Maybe a place of worship to the gods
they loved
for their harvests and the ones they took
who they thought they'd laid forever
ashes in the cairn to rest easy
or could it really be an act of love
out of respect for the mountains four
that are the 'old woman of the moor'
to pay homage for her watching over
mountain, moor and sea
cos she inspires awe in me

So if you get to Calanais
take no expectations of what will be
something unforgettably
a time you will remember
the only tool that you will need
is a mind that's open with eyes that greed
and take in the vista there to see
lochs, peatland, moor and mountains
Calanais has a place deep inside me
I am so glad that they found them


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Three soldiers: Image by kind permission of Ms D Smillie

Barbury Camp

We burrowed night and day with tools of lead,
Heaped the bank up and cast it in a ring
And hurled the earth above. And Caesar said,
“Why, it is excellent. I like the thing.”
We, who are dead,
Made it, and wrought, and Caesar liked the thing.

And here we strove, and here we felt each vein
Ice-bound, each limb fast-frozen, all night long.
And here we held communion with the rain
That lashed us into manhood with its thong,
Cleansing through pain.
And the wind visited us and made us strong.

Up from around us, numbers without name,
Strong men and naked, vast, on either hand
Pressing us in, they came. And the wind came
And bitter rain, turning grey all the land
That was our game,
To fight with men and storms, and it was grand.

For many days we fought them, and our sweat
Watered the grass, making it spring up green,
Blooming for us. And, if the wind was wet,
Our blood wetted the wind, making it keen
With the hatred
And wrath and courage that our blood had been.

So, fighting men and winds and tempests, hot
With joy and hate and battle-lust, we fell
Where we fought. And God said, “Killed at last then?
Ye that are too strong for heaven, too clean for hell,
(God said) stir not.
This be your heaven, or, if ye will, your hell.”

So again we fight and wrestle, and again
Hurl the earth up and cast it in a ring.
But when the wind comes up, driving the rain
(Each rain-drop a fiery steed), and the mists rolling
Up from the plain,
This wild procession, this impetuous thing.

Hold us amazed. We mount the wind-cars, then
Whip up the steeds and drive through all the world,
Searching to find somewhere some brethren,
Sons of the winds and waters of the world.
We, who were men,
Have sought, and found no men in all this world.

Wind, that has blown here always ceaselessly,
Bringing, if any man can understand,
Might to the mighty, freedom to the free;
Wind, that has caught us, cleansed us, made us grand,
Wind that is we
(We that were men)—make men in all this land,

That so may live and wrestle and hate that when
They fall at last exultant, as we fell,
And come to God, God may say, “Do you come then
Mildly enquiring, is it heaven or hell?
Why! Ye were men!
Back to your winds and rains. Be these your heaven and hell!”

Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895-1915)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Stonehenge: Image credit Richard Misrach

Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

The wind, playing upon the edifice, produced a booming tune, like the note of some gigantic one-stringed harp. No other sound came from it, and lifting his hand and advancing a step or two, Clare felt the vertical surface of the structure. It seemed to be of solid stone, without joint or moulding. Carrying his fingers onward he found that what he had come in contact with was a colossal rectangular pillar; by stretching out his left hand he could feel a similar one adjoining. At an indefinite height overhead something made the black sky blacker, which had the semblance of a vast architrave uniting the pillars horizontally. They carefully entered beneath and between; the surfaces echoed their soft rustle; but they seemed to be still out of doors. The place was roofless.

In the far north-east sky he could see between the pillars a level streak of light. The uniform concavity of black cloud was lifting bodily like the lid of a pot, letting in at the earth's edge the coming day, against which the towering monoliths and trilithons began to be blackly defined.

The band of silver paleness along the east horizon made even the distant parts of the Great Plain appear dark and near; and the whole enormous landscape bore that impress of reserve, taciturnity, and hesitation which is usual just before day. The eastward pillars and their architraves stood up blackly against the light, and the great flame-shaped Sun-stone beyond them; and the Stone of Sacrifice midway. Presently the night wind died out, and the quivering little pools in the cup-like hollows of the stones lay still.

Castlerigg by T Allom and H Alard: circa 1835

Hyperion: Book II

Scarce images of life, one here, one there,
Lay vast and edgeways; like a dismal cirque
Of Druid stones, upon a forlorn moor,
When the chill rain begins at shut of eve,
In dull November, and their chancel vault,
The Heaven itself, is blinded throughout night.
Each one kept shroud, nor to his neighbour gave
Or word, or look, or action of despair.

John Keats

The Kennet Avenue by William Stukeley

A place for heart and soul

Summer solstice and a familiar road to take you there.
Clacket Lane Services for a stretch and a sandwich
then on into Berkshire where the trees and spaces
gently stretch heart and mind to their own making.

And just after Membury comes a sight to bring you home
a line of Downland like your lover's lines in the morning.
Softly sailing into an ancient dreamland
where time itself stalls and shimmers still.

Take the old Roman road to Marlborough at junction 15
or exit at 16 and up the hill to Hackpen?
It doesn't really matter
this is home now and a little indescribable but
nonetheless home.

Silage and slowness and cheaper beer
a place where you can stretch a while without being charged for it.
Mud on the road, people with maps, muddy boots, ideas and drums.
A place where the world changes without changing.

A place where there's still a place for heart and soul
inviting you to reach out and make it your own.
A place to stroll and whisper and smile.
A place where you know you've got it right.