May 5th, 2009

John Michell RIP

John Michell died. I wouldn't say I was a disciple, but whenever I have pursued some particularly far-out line of speculative thought- anything to do with UFOs, ley lines, King Arthur, Glastonbury, standing stones and so on- it's a pretty sure thing that MIchell was loitering about somewhere in the vicinity.  I must have read some of his books- though I'm not sure which- because the New Age books that weren't written by him were mostly inspired by him- and you can't dip your ladle into that nutricious porridge without it coming out full of Michell. Earlier this year I found myself navigating round South West England with his book Sacred England as my guide and he led me to a very wonderful romanesque bas relief of St George in a  suburb of Dorchester that even the locals don't know is there. He was a man who knew a fabulous number of things- all of them fascinating, many of them nonsense. And the dear thing about him is that he was in on the joke.  He was a savant, a mystic, a trickster, a conjurer, a twiddler and tweeter on the Pipes of Pan. His scholarship was ludic, because- as he fully believed- the universe is too. He wasn't serious- or responsible- but he cared- and is in the line of those- which includes Shakespeare and William Blake and Kipling and Stukeley and Dion Fortune and so many other of my heroes and heroines- who have treated and written of England as holy ground.

When I Went Back To Glastonbury

When I Went Back To Glastonbury


I.M. John Michell


When I went back to Glastonbury

It was 1978

And the signs which read “no hippies served”

Were ten years out of date


And all the folks on the hill were tourists;

None was smoking grass

And the biggest high was to watch the sky

And the little clouds go past


And my mind went back

As I thought it would

To the last time I was there

To a girl my age in a gypsy skirt

With long dark straggly hair

Kept from her eyes with a beaded band

Like the red Indians wear


Who woke up from the night she’d spent

Under the open skies

With beads of sweat on her upper lip

And a druggy look in her eyes.


She said, I dreamed of England

It was very small and green

And all the folk in the history books

Had come in a time machine


Tents had been raised in the meadows,

Bright with cloth of gold.

All of us there were happy

None of us were old


And one I knew came close to me

Holding a daisy chain

He put it on my hair. We kissed

And then we kissed again


And walked among the famous dead.

I saw with my own eyes

Elizabeth among her throng

Of captains, priests and spies


And Charles the haughty, martyr king

And Charles his son the rake

And all the tiresome German kings

Brought over by mistake-

But when the pipe began to play

And the tambourine to shake

It was Shakespeare with his Anne,

William and Catherine Blake


Who led the dancing. Off  they went

And we all followed after,

Filling the lazy afternoon

With witty talk and laughter.


And so the vale of Avalon

Became a dancing floor.

We danced through Glastonbury town

And through the Abbot’s door

Up the aisle of his roofless church

And round and round the tor.


Just as it did for Joshua

The sun stood still above.

Then it looked down on slaughter

As now it looked on love.


His eyes were green as emerald,

His hair was the softest brown,

His velvet coat was blue and red.

His lip was fringed with down,


But when I asked his name of him

He sadly bowed his head

“In the world where you body lies

The cock has crowed,” he said.


He dropped my hands, he stepped away.

There came a change in the weather

The sky went black the wind was full

Of scraps of flower and feather.


Thunder spoke like a cannonade.

Raindrops fell like lead.

The piping turned to a long high squeal

The dancers broke and fled


And when I caught him by the sleeve

All that I held was air.

The sun came out on the fields again

And nobody was there.


She hitched her rucksack on her back

The larks were singing shrill

Up in the top of the summer sky.

“See you,” I said . “You will

But maybe not in this life,” she said-

And walked off down the hill.