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Standing stone on the North York Moors
©
Littlestone

A Dream of Solstice

Qual e’ colui che somniando vede,
che dopo ‘l sogno la passione impressa
rimane, e l’altro a la mente non riede,
cotal son io…

Dante, Paradiso, Canto XXXIII

‘Like somebody who sees things when he’s dreaming
And after the dream lives with the aftermath
Of what he felt, no other trace remaining,

So I live now’, for what I saw departs
And is almost lost, although a distilled sweetness
Still drops from it into my inner heart.

It is the same with snow the sun releases,
The same as when in wind, the hurried leaves
Swirl round your ankles and the shaking hedges

That had flopped their catkin cuff-lace and green sleeves
Are sleet-whipped bare. Dawn light began stealing
Through the cold universe to County Meath,

Over weirs where the Boyne water, fulgent, darkling,
Turns its thick axle, over rick-sized stones
Millennia deep in their own unmoving

And unmoved alignment. And now the planet turns
Earth brow and templed earth, the crowd grows still
In the wired-off precinct of the burial mounds,

Flight 104 from New York audible
As it descends on schedule into Dublin,
Boyne Valley Centre Car Park already full,

Waiting for seedling light on roof and windscreen.
And as in illo tempore people marked
The king’s gold dagger when he plunged it in

To the hilt in unsown ground, to start the work
Of the world again, to speed the plough
And plant the riddled grain, we watch through murk

And overboiling cloud for the milted glow
Of sunrise, for an eastern dazzle
To send first light like share-shine in a furrow

Steadily deeper, farther available,
Creeping along the floor of the passage grave
To backstone and capstone, holding its candle

Under the rock-piled roof and the loam above.

Seamus Heaney

 

 58405
 
Lanyon Quoit by William Pascoe (active as an artist from 1905-1912)
Illustration from the frontispiece to Days in Cornwall (Methuen & Co)
 
To A Fallen Cromlech
 
And Thou at last art fall’n; Thou, who hast seen
The storms and calms of twice ten hundred years.
The naked Briton here has paused to gaze
Upon thy pond’rous mass, ere bells were chimed,
Or the throng’d hamlet smok’d with social fires.
Whilst thou hast here repos’d, what numerous
tribes,
That breath’d the breath of life, have pass’d away.
What wond’rous changes in th’affairs of men!
Their proudest cities lowly ruins made;
Battles, and sieges, empires lost and won;
Whilst thou hast stood upon the silent hill
A lonely monument of times that were.
Lie, where thou art. Let no rude hand remove,
Or spoil thee; for the spot is consecrate
To thee, and Thou to it; and as the heart
Aching with thoughts of human littleness
Asks, without hope of knowing, whose the strength
That poised thee here; so ages yet unborn
(O! humbling, humbling thought !)may vainly seek,
What were the race of men, that saw thee fall.
 
 
Poetry would normally be considered out of place in this Journal, but the lines printed above seem worthy of record here. Their author was the Rev. Charles Valentine Le Grice (1773-1858), who lived at Trereife, Madron, and was curate of St. Mary’s Chapel, Penzance,  from 1806 to 1831. He was a prolific writer and lists of his many published works may be found in Bibliotheca Comubiensis (/, 311; ///, 1266). The poem was written in 1816 and printed in the Appendix to the second (1823) edition of The Petition of an Old Uninhabited House in Penzance (p.37). Lanyon Quoit, Madron, “perhaps the noblest specimen of the kind”; the date of the fall is given by Le Grice as 19th October 1816, but this is evidently a mistake for 1815. For a drawing and account of the quoit in its fallen state see Proc. W.C.F.C. 1.4 (1956), 167; it was later re-erected at less than the original height.
 
From Cornish Archaeology: No 5, 1996. Page 16. For another poem on Lanyon Quoit click here.
 

The Huge History Lesson
©
Trustees of the British Museum
 
 
 
Adam’s Grave, Wiltshire England
Image credit and © Gordon Kingston
 
On a day when Historic England has announced that top of its list for sites to be protected are the barrows (burial mounds) that dot the English landscape we thought it apt to reproduce a poem and a photo by one of our old friends – Gordon Kingston.
 
Their presence
 
‘Neath Adam’s Grave I push “large chips”
down through my teeth and grasping lips…
 
Didn’t Strabo state that ancients ate
Their fathers’ bodies on a plate;
And drank the fluid that now gets hid
In a silver cup, under a silver lid?
Somehow their presence is up here still;
Watching me watching, on the hill.
 
Gordon Kingston
 
For more poems on the megalithic theme please see the Megalithic Poems blog here.
 
 
The Magna Carta of 1215. This document is now held at the British Library
Source Wikimedia Commons
 
And still when mob or Monarch lays
Too rude a hand on English ways,
The whisper wakes, the shudder plays,
Across the reeds at Runnymede.
And Thames, that knows the moods of kings,
And crowds and priests and suchlike things,
Rolls deep and dreadful as he brings
Their warning down from Runnymede!
 
From Rudyard Kipling’s What Say the Reeds at Runnymede?
 
 
Dead soldiers in a trench, Hill of Cividale on the Italian Front
Photographer unidentified, November 1917. Hulton Getty Collection
 
What is Stonehenge?
 
What is Stonehenge? It is the roofless past;
Man’s ruinous myth; his uninterred adoring
Of the unknown in sunrise cold and red;
His quest of stars that arch his doomed exploring.
And what is Time but shadows that were cast
By these storm-sculptured stones while centuries fled?
The stones remain; their stillness can outlast
The skies of history hurrying overhead.
 
Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) World War I poet.
 

Well, this is our 600th post since we got going two and a half years ago. First off, many many thanks to all who have contributed, or drawn our attention to, features and photos since we started (and thanks too to our readers who have commented or indicated that they liked what we’ve published).

So, we wondered how we might celebrate our 600th post…

Cornwall’s been in the news recently: Earlier in the year it took a severe storm battering (along with other areas in Britain) and its only rail link to and from the rest of the country was dramatically severed due to high seas at Dawlish in Devon. Now, after for some two months, the line has been repaired and trains are running again. Then, last week, came the exciting news that the Cornish are to be granted minority status under European rules for the protection of national minorities (we ran a short feature about it here) which hopefully will herald a greater awareness and appreciation of Cornwall’s proud heritage. Also, last week, BBC television ran an adaptation (not an entirely successful one) of Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn; a dark and violent story of ship-wrecking, smuggling and murder centred around an old inn on Bodmin Moor.

So, with all this happening, it seems appropriate to mark Cornwall’s current place in the spotlight, alongside our own 600th post celebration, with a poem dedicated to Cornwall and the Cornish and news of an exciting archaeological/conservation event happening in Cornwall next month. We hope you find both of interest.

Pitted mining landscape adjacent to the Hurlers Stone Circle on Bodmin Moor
©
The Heritage Trust

***

Cornwall: The gold of a nation

Pitiful pitted land
Plundered for its wealth and identity
Its language lost
Earth dug and destroyed for silver, tin and China clay
Brought close to a nothingness at the tip of Britain.

And yet…
Cornwall has become itself again
Its tors and towers never really lost
Its words never really withered
All just buried deep…
Like the Rillaton treasure at its barrow-fast heart
The gold of a nation gathers again the light against it.

***

The Standing of the Stones
A Sustainable Trust event brought to you by: Giant’s Quoit

 

One of the ‘subsumed’ stones under the south-east buttress of St John the Baptist Church, Pewsey, Wiltshire England. Did this stone once form part of a stone circle?
©
The Heritage Trust

Solace in Stone

Seek them out, search out the Ancient Ones. Stones of Salutation. Solstice and Symmetry
Stones of Mystery. Millenniums and Magnetism. Stones of Ancients. Augurs and Alignments
Stones of Loneliness. Lunar and Leys. Stones of Ghosts. Gnomic and Geometry
Stones of Destiny. Druids and Direction. Stones of Elementals. Equinox and Equations
Stones of Ceremony. Celts and Chronology. Stones of Hypocrisy. Hedonists and Harmonics
Find their Sanctuary, find their Solace. Pitted with time, grey and ochre patched
Yet smooth as silk where hands have rubbed. In fields, woods, valleys, bog, bracken and bramble
Standing, fallen, broken, smashed by the Church. No matter their magic felt through centuries and time
For they have seen death, life and the stars. Sit in their majesty, turn and look back
See the horizons. Mothers, mapped out. Look on in wonder, best all alone
For then you will find Solace in Stone

T J Ackley

 

 
The Cove at Avebury, Wiltshire, England
©
The Heritage Trust
 
A few days ago we celebrated our second anniversary. For this, our 500th feature, we thought we’d bring together one or two strands that go towards making us what we are – ie a group of people who love our heritage and want to see it protected and preserved. We do that by writing about it, photographing it, complaining when it’s mistreated, and showing our appreciation to the many, many people in museums, universities, libraries, in small groups or even alone who are working towards goals similar to our own.
 
The photo above and the poem below highlight, perhaps, how fragile our heritage is and how vigilant we need to be to ensure that it is there for both ourselves and future generations to enjoy, learn from and wonder at.
 
***
 
There’s a silence here
a silence that lifts and suppresses
all at once.
 
Lures life into a comfort
then leaves it limp
like a frozen drop of transience
on a quiet winter branch
that might
 
or might not
spring back to life again.
 
 
 
Avebury, north-east quadrant
©
The Heritage Trust
Free to use for non-commercial heritage issues
 
 
The Heritage Trust is two years old today. During that time we’ve published nearly 500 features, had over 40,000 hits and have attracted 165 follows. As with last year, we wondered how we might mark the occasion, and thought the following poem sums up much of what we hold dear and strive to promote and preserve. We hope both the photo and the poem will resonate with you, our readers, while at the same time thanking you for your continued support, input and encouragement over the last 24 months.
 
***
 
Avebury
 
A cold New Year’s Eve seeps in,
Walking along an unknown path,
Confronted suddenly by giant arcs of ditch and bank
Which draw the eye towards processions of stones.
Rings within rings,
Gauntly chiselled jewels bound by bracelets of mossy grass,
Their ancient faces careworn from witnessing millennia –
Sad, yet proud and wise, these forty ton leviathans.
Echoes of long-forgotten rituals
Intangible yet close, a sense of collective aim.
Slowly we traverse the great circle,
Latter-day invaders, unsure of their purpose.
How much have we forgotten?
Over two hundred generations – what is remembered?
 
Geoff Butts
 
 
 
Beowulf: A new translation by Seamus Heaney
 
Again this week, from 9:45am – 10:00am daily, BBC Radio 4 is paying tribute to Seamus Heaney, “Nobel Prize-winning poet, internationally recognised as one of the greatest contemporary voices who passed away [last] month at the age of 74.” by broadcasting a recording of the poet reading from his translation of Beowulf. More here and in our Sixth century Anglo-Saxon warrior and horse skeletons to go on display feature here. While listening to the programme last week one word caught our attention – torque.
 
After Grendel’s defeat, Beowulf is showered with gifts – among them, “…hrægl ond hringas, healsbeaga…” Michael Alexander, in his rendering of Beowulf, translates the passage as “…robes and rings, and the richest collar…” while Seamus Heaney in his rendering translates the passage as, “…a mail-shirt of rings, and the most resplendent torque of gold…”
 
Sweet’s Student’s Dictionary of Anglo-Saxon defines healsbeaga as a necklace; torque, (‘heals’ being ‘neck’ and ‘beaga’ a ‘ring’ – in other words a neck-ring). We can’t recall ever seeing a torque associated with any Anglo-Saxon hoard or burial (though there might be) and wonder if the idea of a torque in Beowulf harks back to an earlier time when there was more interaction between the Germanic tribes and the ‘Celts’. Beowulf, though written down in the eighth century, dates to an earlier oral version from the fifth century at least.
 
There’s something else that’s interesting about the neck-ring (torque) in Beowulf. The poet goes out of the way to emphasise that it was, “…the most resplendent torque of gold I ever heard tell of anywhere on earth or under heaven. (Heaney). Michael Alexander continues with, “Never under heaven have I heard of a finer prize among heroes – since Hama carried off the Brisling necklace to his bright city, that gold-cased jewel…”* Furthermore, the Beowulf poet goes into a sub-plot at this stage, summed up by Heaney when he says, “Gifts presented, including the torque: Beowulf will present in due course to King Hygelac, who will die wearing it.”
 
So there seems to be a bit of specialness associated with this gold gift to the Geats, which perhaps isn’t all that surprising when we remember that there were pieces of Roman glass and two, 1st century pierced (possibly Corieltavi) gold staters which were used as pendants and which were found in the 7th century Saxon Princess’ burial at Street House in North Yorkshire. The question is, was this a torque or a necklace? A torque does seem the more likely for a warrior to wear…
 
* The Brisling, or Brisingamen, necklace belonged to Freya, “…a magical necklace reputedly made of amber and rubies…”
 
 
 
Sixth century Anglo-Saxon warrior and his horse, discovered at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, will be displayed as they were found at the newly extended Mildenhall Museum
 
BBC News Suffolk reports yesterday that –
 
A Suffolk museum has taken delivery of the skeletal remains of an Anglo-Saxon warrior and his horse. The remains were found in 1997 at RAF Lakenheath and they are going on display at nearby Mildenhall Museum. The warrior is thought to have died in about AD 500 and the find included a bridle, sword and shield. The bones are being displayed under glass in the same position they were found in and the public will be able to see them next month. Suffolk Archaeological Service has been in charge of the skeletons, which were part of a cemetery containing 427 graves. The warrior is believed to have been born locally and was about 30 years old when he died.
 
The Museum has been doubled in size to house the new exhibit using £789,813 provided by Forest Heath District Council. The display will be open to the public from 2pm on Wednesday, 9 October 2013.
 
Full article here. See also our earlier features on the Mildenhall Museum here and here.
 
NB. This week, from 9:45am – 10:00am daily, BBC Radio 4 is paying tribute to Seamus Heaney, “Nobel Prize-winning poet, internationally recognised as one of the greatest contemporary voices who passed away earlier this month at the age of 74.” by broadcasting a recording of the poet reading from his translation of Beowulf.
 
More here.
 
 
 
Reconstructed circular structures at Choirokoitia, Cyprus
Source Wikimedia Commons. Image credit Ophelia2  
 
 
Nine thousand years ago you lived here
in little round houses surrounded by little narrow alleyways
connecting each of your homes one to another.
Alleyways no wider
than the outstretched arms of a modern man.
 
But then you stood no taller
than one of our children of ten years or so stands now
and lived no longer than our middle years.
It was a time before the thought
of clay pots had even crossed your minds.
 
You ate as well as we however
perhaps even better.
Pistachios, figs, olives and prunes.
Deer, sheep, goats and pigs.
 
Unpackaged and unpaid for
taken from the hills all around you.
Water from your streams
fish from your rivers and from the sea.
 
Choirokoitia, Choirokoitia
people of Choirokoitia.
I walk along your ancient pathways
and peer through your ancient windows and doorways.
What am I looking for?
 
Simplicity perhaps.
No doubt your loves and losses were as rich and as sad as ours
but at least you knew one another
walking from house to house
through field and wood
laughing and arguing
living life to the full.
 
Nine thousand years on no-one knows anyone anymore.
You would not like it here people of Choirokoitia.
The sound of your rivers and steams have gone.
The sea supports a flotsam of rubbish you could never imagine.
 
Gone is the quietness that you knew.
Gone now your harmony with the changing of the year.
Gone too your finger upon the pulse of life
and your upturned hands when life lies cold.
 
Choirokoitia, Choirokoitia
people of Choirokoitia.
If I could travel back to be with you I would.
I would happily forfeit half my life to walk with you
picking olives and figs along the way
listening to the far-off sounds of the sea
and the mountain streams as they tumble and fall
around your village of little round houses
and little narrow alleyways.
 
LS
 
 
Choirokoitia is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site.
 
 
 
Irish poet and Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney at University College Dublin in 2009
Source Wikimedia Commons. Image credit Sean O’Connor
 
 
Qual e’ colui che somniando vede,
che dopo ‘l sogno la passione impressa
rimane, e l’altro a la mente non riede,
cotal son io…

Dante, Paradiso, Canto XXXIII

‘Like somebody who sees things when he’s dreaming
And after the dream lives with the aftermath
Of what he felt, no other trace remaining,

So I live now’, for what I saw departs
And is almost lost, although a distilled sweetness
Still drops from it into my inner heart.

It is the same with snow the sun releases,
The same as when in wind, the hurried leaves
Swirl round your ankles and the shaking hedges

That had flopped their catkin cuff-lace and green sleeves
Are sleet-whipped bare. Dawn light began stealing
Through the cold universe to County Meath,

Over weirs where the Boyne water, fulgent, darkling,
Turns its thick axle, over rick-sized stones
Millennia deep in their own unmoving

And unmoved alignment. And now the planet turns
Earth brow and templed earth, the crowd grows still
In the wired-off precinct of the burial mounds,

Flight 104 from New York audible
As it descends on schedule into Dublin,
Boyne Valley Centre Car Park already full,

Waiting for seedling light on roof and windscreen.
And as in illo tempore people marked
The king’s gold dagger when he plunged it in

To the hilt in unsown ground, to start the work
Of the world again, to speed the plough
And plant the riddled grain, we watch through murk

And overboiling cloud for the milted glow
Of sunrise, for an eastern dazzle
To send first light like share-shine in a furrow

Steadily deeper, farther available,
Creeping along the floor of the passage grave
To backstone and capstone, holding its candle

Under the rock-piled roof and the loam above.

 

Seamus Heaney

13 April 1939 – 30 August 2013

 

Lanyon Quoit, Cornwall
©
The Heritage Trust
 
 
Look not softly,
 
Stranger, upon this Stone Age scene,
Nor let remoteness
Disguise where living men have been
In grief and laughter.
Though all’s now hushed and gaunt and harsh,
You are standing where humanity once stood.
These stones seal a sepulchre
For your own flesh and blood.
 
Here lie our forebears,
Though their memorials have no name.
How should we know them,
If from the grave these tribesmen came?
What was their language?
No echo in the southwest wind
Recalls one word one single warrior said.
Ravaged granite stays to mark
The lost unlettered dead.
 
Here lie their women,
Short-lived mothers of chance-reared young.
The artless lullabies
This Cornish hillside once heard sung,
Their mourners’ dirges,
Are as soundless to this world’s ears
As to the deaf that skylark’s note above.
Cold silence grips their converse
And all their songs of love.
 
Arthur Caddick (1911-1987)
 
 

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