Thursday, August 17, 2006

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).

1 comment:

Littlestone said...

Compare Wordworth's poem, The Thorn,* with Stukeley's, "...findings at several sites, as recorded in Stonehenge, a Temple Restor’d to the British Druids: “About three foot below the surface, a layer of flints... about a foot thick, rested on a layer of soft mould another foot: in which was inclos’ed an urn full of bones... “The bones had been burnt, and crouded all together in a little heap, not so much as a hat would contain”... “We made a cross-section ten foot each way, three foot broad over its center... “At length we found a squarish hole cut into the solid chalk, in the center of the tumulus. It was three foot and a half, i.e., two cubits long, and near two foot broad, i.e. one cubit: pointing to Stonehenge directly. It was a cubit and a half deep from the surface”... Regarding “one of the small ones, 20 cubits in diameter,”... “A child’s body (as it seems) had been burnt here, and cover’d up in that hole: but thro’ the length of time consum’d. From three foot deep, we found much wood ashes soft and black as ink..."

"...there is no evidence as to when Wordsworth first read Stukeley, or that Wordsworth himself subscribed to Stukeley’s fatuous theories, we know from poems like “Salisbury Plain” that he was fascinated by Druid lore, and in the 1805 version of The Prelude he even characterized himself, during his studies at Cambridge (Stukeley’s alma mater), as a youthful initiate into the Druid class of Bards...""**

* Complete poem at -
** Abstracts from From Relics to Remains: Wordsworth’s “The Thorn” and the Emergence of Secular History by Charles J. Rzepka. More at -