Saturday, August 26, 2006

Ground plan of Avebury by John Aubrey (1626-1697)

The Secret Places of the Heart (1922) by H G Wells

Wonderful indeed it is, a vast circumvallation that was already two thousand years old before the dawn of British history; a great wall of earth with its ditch most strangely on its inner and not on its outer side; and within this enclosure gigantic survivors of the great circles of unhewn stone that, even as late as Tudor days, were almost complete. A whole village, a church, a pretty manor house have been built, for the most part, out of the ancient megaliths; the great wall is sufficient to embrace them all with their gardens and paddocks; four cross-roads meet at the village centre. There are drawings of Avebury before these things arose there, when it was a lonely wonder on the plain, but for the most part the destruction was already done before the Mayflower sailed. To the southward stands the cone of Silbury Hill; its shadow creeps up and down the intervening meadows as the seasons change. Around this lonely place rise the Downs, now bare sheep pastures, in broad undulations, with a wart-like barrow here and there, and from it radiate, creeping up to gain and hold the crests of the hills, the abandoned trackways of that forgotten world. These trackways, these green roads of England, these roads already disused when the Romans made their highway past Silbury Hill to Bath, can still be traced for scores of miles through the land, running to Salisbury and the English Channel, eastward to the crossing at the Straits and westward to Wales, to ferries over the Severn, and southwestward into Devon and Cornwall.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Avebury, looking west from the south-east quadrant

And see you, after rain

And see you, after rain, the trace
Of mound and ditch and wall?
O that was a Legion's camping-place,
When Caesar sailed from Gaul.

And see you marks that show and fade,
Like shadows on the downs?
O they are the lines the Flint men made,
To guard their wondrous towns!

Trackway and Camp and city lost,
Salt marsh where now is corn;
Old Wars, old Peace, old Arts that cease,
And so was England born!

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A British Druid by William Stukeley

The stillness of this hill

As the sun, so shy, speeds on to hide behind the western
I stand within this
Ancient circle with its rugged stones
Pointing to the sky
Like the digits on the clock of time -
The time that has refused to move,
As if the keeper of this heather hearth has gone to bed
Remembering not to lift
The fallen weights of Time and Space.

And as I rest upon this stone
I see a ladder too - like Jacob did
Reaching far into the end of Time, and
I seem to touch that void where there was only
That brooded on the great abyss
Giving birth to
Life. And as the painful pangs of birth subside
I hear in the wind a mighty voice commanding through
eternal space,
"Let there be Light", and
Light there Was.
The Light was good,
And it kissed the earth, they fell in love
And made a promise to be true for ever and for Ever.

They're still in love, for
As I rest upon this stone tonight I spy them kissing in their
Purple gowns
As touch they do on that horizon bed
Where they'll embrace 'till dawn

I know they will not part
For as tomorrow comes they'll wake, and walk together
another day,
While all the children of the living earth
Will call them blessed as they pass.

And as I touch this stone
I feel the hands of those
My brothers
Who at dawn of human life
Erected to that same Old Sun
This temple of eternal praise, and thanked the
Source of Light and Love for just
Another day - to be alive.

And now I hear in the stillness of this hill,
Where there's no time,
The voice of him who said,
"Let there be Light"
And light there was,
There is,
And will be tomorrow for my sons,
And their children too.

Iolo Morgannwg (1747-1826)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Orthography of Stonehenge by William Stukeley

Measured from side to side: Stukeley to Wordsworth

High on a mountain's highest ridge,
Where oft the stormy winter gale
Cuts like a scythe, while through the clouds
It sweeps from vale to vale;
Not five yards from the mountain-path,
This thorn you on your left espy;
And to the left, three yards beyond,
You see a little muddy pond
Of water, never dry;
I've measured it from side to side:
'Tis three feet long, and two feet wide.

And close beside this aged thorn,
There is a fresh and lovely sight,
A beauteous heap, a hill of moss,
Just half a foot in height.
All lovely colours there you see,
All colours that were ever seen,
And mossy network too is there,
As if by hand of lady fair
The work had woven been,
And cups, the darlings of the eye,
So deep is their vermilion dye.

Ah me! what lovely tints are there!
Of olive-green and scarlet bright,
In spikes, in branches, and in stars,
Green, red, and pearly white.
This heap of earth o'ergrown with moss,
Which close beside the thorn you see,
So fresh in all its beauteous dyes,
Is like an infant's grave in size
As like as like can be:
But never, never any where,
An infant's grave was half so fair.

From The Thorn by William Wordsworth (please see accompanying comment).

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Here in our village. Skara Brae circa 4,000 BCE

Skara Brae

Here in our village in the west
We are little regarded.

The lords of tilth and loch
Are Quarrying (we hear)
Great stones to make a stone circle.

In the last of the snow
A great one died
In that stone hollow in the east.
A winter sunset
Will touch his mouth. He carries
A cairngorm on his cold finger
To the country of the dead.

They come here from Birsay
To take our fish for taxes. Otherwise
We are left in peace
With our small fires and pots.

Will it be a morning for fishermen?
The sun died in red flames
Then the night swarmed with stars, like fish.

The sea gives and takes. The sea
Devoured four houses one winter.

Ask the old one to make a clay lamp
The ripening sun
May be pleased with the small flame, at-plough-time.

George Mackay Brown (1921 - 1996)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

All that still stands of the Beckhampton Avenue, Avebury

Soldiers in grey

Flanked by the fallen,
Scarred by the wind,
See the soldiers in grey,
Holding the line
That was willed in a world that is gone.

Lost is the reason, gone the control,
Dead are the lords of the stones.
Yet dutiful still, see the soldiers in grey
Holding the line,
Obeying a granite command.

Come Wiccan, come wacko, come Wayne,
Come archaeo, megarak and loon,
See the soldiers in grey, holding the line,
See the power that endures, see the will
Imposed from a world that is gone.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Men-an-Tol: Image credit Mr Hamhead

Two Visits to the Men-an-Tol

Ishmael’s Shaft, Hard Shaft and Robin’s Shaft,
long disused now, mere falls of shadow and air
into tunnelled earth, wickered-over with keep-out lids,

but the abandoned engine houses around Bodrifty
and Little Galver glitter charmed lives in holiday sun
under a clear wildblue sky as we approach

the stones moored in the moorland;
years ago, on our first visit, mist looms
wove and unwove luminous chilly muslins of fog

over the gorseland
out of which the three stones suddenly blossomed,
two waist-high pillars, to east and west,

and between them,
forever motionlessly circling,
a holed stone big enough for anyone to look out or in,

holy stone and her two sentinel sisters.
(Who said at night they run to the river and drink,
or dance across the brazen moor,

hopping over the laid-stone hedges?)
Twenty years ago I clambered through the maw
of the mother stone, entering, travelling, exiting

three times,
the rabbit-mown grass scratchy on my knees
as I crawled through, against the clouded sun

through this granite polo-mint mother,
or giantess-bracelet of stone,
cervix-anchor steadying me in a sea of mist and gorse,

the mass of her cold and rough to my touch,
like a fallen moon, stone ball of string,
ravelling and unravelling in stillness -

winding thousands of years of healing,
fertility and divination invisibly around herself
and her attendant pillars -

I threaded myself through the pierced stone,
my child within me not to be born for seven months yet;
fertile I was, blessing for the child I sought,

safe passage -
for first comes blossom, then bud, then fruit -
hoicked up into the world via meticulous hospital panics,

she arrived unharmed; and years later, at noon,
at the hot height of May, the coconut scent of the gorse
outfragrancing the salt of the sea,

drifting the yachts along in perfumed gales,
my daughter plunge-wriggles, coquettes and corkscrews
herself through the granite 0,

the ever-open place’s massive orbit:
now it is she who will carry the cornucopia,
roped in her turn to earth and the spring.

Penelope Shuttle

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Starlit Stonehenge: Image credit Jane Tomlinson (

Channel Firing

That night your great guns, unawares,
Shook all our coffins as we lay,
And broke the chancel window-squares,
We thought it was the Judgement-day

And sat upright. While drearisome
Arose the howl of wakened hounds:
The mouse let fall the altar-crumb,
The worms drew back into their mounds,

The glebe-cow drooled. Till God called, `No;
It's gunnery practice out at sea
Just as before you went below;
The world is as it used to be:

`All nations striving strong to make
Red war yet redder. Mad as hatters
They do no more for Christ├ęs sake
Than you that are helpless in such matters.

`That this is not the judgement-hour
For some of them's a blessed thing,
For if it were they'd have to scour
Hell's floor for so much threatening...

`Ha, ha. It will be warmer when
I blow the trumpet (if indeed
I ever do; for you are men,
And rest eternal sorely need).'

So down we lay again. `I wonder,
Will the world ever saner be,
'Said one, `than when He sent us under
In our indifferent century!'

And many a skeleton shook his head.
`Instead of preaching forty year,'
My neighbour Parson Thirdly said,
`I wish I had stuck to pipes and beer.

'Again the guns disturbed the hour,
Roaring their readiness to avenge,
As far inland as Stourton Tower,
And Camelot, and starlit Stonehenge.

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)