Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Earth Has the Lord-Builders.

Sometimes you just pick up a book and thumb through for the joy of the words, well here is a few caught by Jacquetta Hawkes, the first is from Beowulf

With seabirds sousing in the spray,
And the hail and the snow seep down day by day.
Heavier are wounds then
For the sweet lord in his heart. And when
The sorrow of the thoughts of kin
Run through his mind and searches in,
His heart goes to find them in the hall
The warriors of old strength

And here she introduces the concept of the new Anglo-saxon invaders to the land of the Celts;
"The invasions were almost as incoherent, as empirical as those of prehistoric times, and the invaders had to fit themselves into the land as they found it before they could begin, without plan or intention, to remould it. In so doing, inevitably they were drawn to the open and still cultivated lands that encircled the decaying towns. But just as it made little difference to the Britons whether they were struggling to maintain disorganized lives in the corner of a forum or the corner of a cave, so the Anglo -Saxons accepted the relics of Roman civilisation as a natural if awe-inspiring feature of their new land"

Here she quotes a part of The Ruin, which most people believe is about Bath...

Curious is this stonework! The Fates destroyed it;
The torn buildings falter; moulder the works of giants.
The roofs are tipped down, the turrets turn over,
The barred gate is broken, white lies on mortar
The frost, and open stands the arching, cumber of lumber
Eaten under with age. Earth has the Lord-Builders.

Taken from The Land by Jacquetta Hawkes

The painting is taken from The Royal Academy pictures shown for 1897 and is called "A Corner of old England" by C.E.Johnson R.I.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Abel Cross by Ted Hughes

Where the Mothers
Gallop their souls

Where the howlings of the heaven
Pour down onto earth
Looking for bodies
Of birds, animals and people

A happiness starts up, secret and wild,
Like a lark-song just out of hearing
Hidden in the wind

A silent evil joy
Like a star broken stone
Who knows nothing more can happen to it
In its cradle grave.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Chronicles of the White Horse

The Christmas season takes us back to childhood and stories, and amongst my books Peter Please's ' The Chronicles of the White Horse' is one I pick up and read again. It is a small story not in the league of great tales, but it features a boy and his adventures with a detective mole.
There is an air of mystic about it, the boy has to learn to be 'not there' invisible, to become like a stone, his mind has to become stilled so that there is 'no thinking', in this state he becomes at one with the world of nature around him.

The Great Iron age hillfort, that belonged to the people of the''White Horse'

The story rests on mystery and mists and eventually takes them to Wayland's Smithy; one night there is a full moon shining directly over the old stones and in the words of the story.."Creeping moss, whorled ferns, lichens, dead branches, grass clumps, shone on its back and side", in the party are the boy, Ben the mole detective and the White Rook. It is at this point that the drama of the story unfolds, the horror of something unseen begins to make itself felt. At first there is a low humming noise whistling through the trees, and slowly bats begin to appear dancing over the silvered moonlit meadow, but they are not quite bats they achieve sinister shapes, then they hear the padding of claws across the frozen grass. The little group have taken refuge in the longbarrow, in its cavelike interior, and they start to tremble as a great yellow-eyed monster appears in front of the stones.

Ben tells them to think marigolds, and slowly the monster disappears so that there is only a layer of leaves in front of the stones, a marigold starts to grow, and as suddenly dies. Followed by a whole host of other marigolds but they too die. The small group trapped in the cave of the barrow, start to imagine into life childhood horrors, the rook, a great eagle.
The story culminates in a shooting star falling to earth, and the great white horse, that is forever galloping across the downs, to once more take flight and gather the dead in...
"I could see it reining on a bridle of light, caught in mid gallop, halting awhile as it has always done and always will. The light barely touching the earth. I heard the sound of the star breaking. The night finished here. I was at the door of the manger. I could see its bloodstained hooves. I heard them pounding between the standing stones. Calling the night, calling the dead and all the things which have ended. Calling them home, no longer free to wander, choke and haunt the living... the night-mare had passed"


And a print of Jane Tomlinson's which hangs on my wall;