Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Long Man of Wilmington: Image credit Sorcha


I guard the gateway
Hold two spears
Or staffs
Or rakes
Through the years
The truth has misted

Clearly a man
Though my hips might say other
Wise Mother I might be
God to many
Most certainly

Yet as you approach me
Kerbstones are all you will see
Industrial covering for the mystery

Once I was the Green Man
Seen only at dawn
Upon my Down
By Mrs. Downs
Of that village below

Or as the snow melted
Upon me
Before around me
Yet I became harder to see

So they bricked me in
That I might remain seen
Though so faint in the earth
My left foot turned east

Was my face lost then?
Did spear become stick?
Did they add hips?
Did I lose a dick?

And then in your sixties
Brick became slab
Call it drab
If you like
My essence
Still lies beneath.

Atop my hill
Lie two barrows
One Long and for many
One round and for a chief

The long one it points
Directly at my head
And however many lie within
They lie undisturbed
In a grave long enough
To be mine
Approached by a steep Cursus
From which to watch Sirius rise

The round one
Lies in line with my body
Abused and raided by an antiquary
One Mr. Mantell
Yet still with its majesty
Though no longer a king

Two ancient cultures
Lined graves up on me
And five thousand years back
From where cars now park
On a cold winter’s night
Orion the Hunter
Dressed in his stars
Would have walked my horizon

Am I he?
Am I the Stonehenge Sun God?
Cernunnos of the Celts?
Or Caesar of the coin?
Or Alfred’s estate marker?
Or Sampson, carved by monks
On their day off?

I have been much to many
Else I would have died
I may be much to you
Or just a man in the side
Of a hill

Yet on a mound
‘Neath a chalk-pit next to me
People now gather
To give thanks to their mother
And father, the Earth
And to honour their gods
And for what it is worth

I thank you

For you sustain me
And I shall be whatever you wish
Until the Downs crumble
And fish swim above me
Many years from now
When we shall all lie
Underneath sea or sky

For as rock became human
So too human stone
The cycle is endless
For you and I belong to the Land
And to it we return
Whether short or Long Man.

Lammas 2001

Friday, July 13, 2007

Silbury: Image credit Robert M Williams

Something beyond the books

There is something beyond the philosophies in the light, in the grass-blades, the leaf, the grasshopper, the sparrow on the wall. Some day the great and beautiful thought which hovers on the confines of the mind will at last alight. The whole sky is full of abounding hope. Something beyond the books, that is consolation.

Richard Jefferies

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Max Gate: Image credit Gerald Ponting

The Shadow on the Stone

I went by the Druid stone
That broods in the garden white and lone,
And I stopped and looked at the shifting shadows
That at some moments fall thereon
From the tree hard by with a rhythmic swing,
And they shaped in my imagining
To the shade that a well-known head and shoulders
Threw there when she was gardening.

I thought her behind my back,
Yea, her I long had learned to lack,
And I said: ‘I am sure you are standing behind me,
Though how do you get into this old track?’
And there was no sound but the fall of a leaf
As a sad response; and to keep down grief
I would not turn my head to discover
That there was nothing in my belief.

Yet I wanted to look and see
That nobody stood at the back of me;
But I thought once more: ‘Nay, I’ll not unvision
A shape which, somehow, there may be.’
So I went on softly from the glade,
And left her behind me throwing her shade,
As she were indeed an apparition—
My head unturned lest my dream should fade.

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)