Thursday, October 01, 2009

Beth Pennard or The British Chieftain's Grave

The feet beneath the verdant glade
by Bards a narrow cist is made
yet ample to contain
Those listless limbs, in speed and force
Which rival'd once the fleetest horse,
Light bounding o'er the plain.
Now filled the hallowed cup of clay
Withdrew from Cromlech's summit grey
Last night procured in locks of wool,
Filled it with care and filled it full,
Such beverage suits etherial sprite
Ere it ascends to realms of light.
Place it contiguous to the head
And o'er its mouth a covering spread...
To a kind chief, who will revere
A chieftains relics buried here
One who with us delights to ken
The ancient works of Celtic man;
Who makes their labours by his own
Survive, when falls each magic stone,
or roaring midst the hills and groves,
View scenes which every Druid loves
The cup our benefactors hand...

John Skinner (1772 – 1839)

1 comment:

Littlestone said...

Moss writes that the, "Reverend John Skinner also wrote dire poetry, he seems best remembered for this long and doleful poem. John Thurnham's article, Examinations of Barrows on the Downs of North Wiltshire 1853-1857, describes a barrow 5 miles from Devizes heading towards Beckhampton and this is the particular barrow Skinner's poem is attributed to.

"The cup mentioned in the poem is a rather beautifully decorated beaker cup, and though Skinner sees it as a beverage to suit an 'ethieral sprite', could it not be that this chieftain is the forerunner of those males that frequent pubs today, taking with him his glass of good cheer or ale to the liminal world beyond. And may one ask, would there indeed have been ale in this 'otherworld'. Many bronze age barrows do have these 'beaker' cups, and hopefully a leg of pork was also added so that he would not go hungry on his journey."

See also Moss' feature on John Skinner here