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Tony Grist

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Henge, Barrow And Midsummer Hill [Oct. 23rd, 2007|09:44 am]
Tony Grist
This poem was written in 1991 to be read aloud to the Manchester Goddess Group.  I was going to post it yesterday as an addendum to the piece on Silbury Hill and then got cold feet. Its picture of prehistoric religion is based on the theories of Terence Meaden and Michael Dames- which never had any academic credence- and I find I don't agree with it anymore. It's an odd position to find oneself in apropos one's own work- to still like it, but not to agree with it. But  I've been thinking things over: a poem is not an academic paper and so- with the caveat that you're not to believe a word of it- I give you

                                    HENGE, BARROW AND MIDSUMMER HILL


                                    Henge, barrow and midsummer hill

                                    Are stations in the sacred landscape.

                                    Here the timeless Goddess enters

                                    The times of her tribes.  It was lifetimes back

                                    And what it meant we have almost forgotten,

                                    Almost forgotten.


                                                                         We killed a child

                                    With great honour and buried her body

                                    Curled like a snail at the heart of the henge

                                    Where earth spirits might rise through her grave,

                                    Follow the curve of the bent bones

                                    And spiral out among villagers dancing

                                    The sunwheel dance that is danced in spring.

                                    A captive ghost, in my meditation,

                                    She takes my hand, but I cannot lead her

                                    Beyond the ring where the magic fixed her.

                                    She will be four years old forever,

                                    And crowned with flowers.


                                                                         But all the rest of us

                                    Have to be laid in tribal earth

                                    To be remade by the winter Goddess

                                    Before we come back to the world again.

                                    She is the sow that eats her farrow,

                                    Old bones cracking within the barrow,

                                    But to those whom she fails to frighten

                                    A giver of gifts.


                                                              No corpses lie

                                    On midsummer hill, but of all the stations

                                    This is the saddest.  The sun on high

                                    Burns, burns as midsummer’s Queen

                                    Hands over her whitening world to death-

                                    The fields by severance and the woods

                                    By slow decay.  With her hair combed out

                                    In its red gold sheaves she is perfect strength

                                    And perfect beauty about to fade

                                    As from this moment summer does-

                                    And the child will leave its mother and

                                    The long procession wind down the hill.


[User Picture]From: heleninwales
2007-10-23 10:14 am (UTC)
That's a beautiful poem. I also like it, though I don't believe in it. But I do feel that it captures something of what people might have believed once, or what people might believe in an alternate universe.

It doesn't bother me that it isn't "true". I read and write fiction about stuff I think is amazing or beautiful or frightening, but I really don't believe in most of it.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-10-23 12:14 pm (UTC)

It's probably enough that I believed it at the time. It may be a load of codswallop but it's emotionally sincere.
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From: (Anonymous)
2007-10-23 07:01 pm (UTC)
Nice poem Tony. Wonder if you'd allow me to include it in Megalithic Poems sometime at http://megalithicpoems.blogspot.com/


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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-10-23 07:35 pm (UTC)
Why certainly, I'd be honoured.
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From: (Anonymous)
2007-10-23 08:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks again Tony, will let you know when it's up.

There's a parallel thread running on The Modern Antiquarian at http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/forum/?thread=23046 that has a much wider readership than the Megalithic Poems blog. Poems posted on TMA are eventually moved over (with a photo or illustration) to the Meg Poems blog. If it's OK I'll post HENGE, BARROW AND MIDSUMMER HILL on TMA first. Needless to say copyright always stays with you, and if you have a particular image you'd like to use with your poem we'd try to use that as well.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-10-23 09:50 pm (UTC)
That'd be splendid.

I don't have any particular illustration in mind, but if you could match the poem up with a suitable image of Silbury Hill that would be great.

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From: (Anonymous)
2007-10-24 08:37 am (UTC)
Hi Tony.

Have just put your poem up on The Modern Antiquarian at http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/forum/?thread=23046&message=554586 The layout on TMA doesn't allow for the first line of each verse to appear at the end of the line but I should be able to fix that when it goes up on the blog.

Many thanks once again.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-10-24 09:27 am (UTC)
Thanks. I'll go check it out.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2007-10-23 10:18 pm (UTC)
She will be four years old forever,
And crowned with flowers.

Whether I believe that anyone ever did this or not, I like these lines.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-10-24 09:28 am (UTC)

I was doing a lot of visualisation exercises at the time and- true or not- I did "see" most of these things
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[User Picture]From: methodius
2007-10-24 05:11 am (UTC)
Well yes, the poem is rather nice, i think, whether you believe it or not.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-10-24 09:29 am (UTC)
Thanks. I've always been rather pleased with it.
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From: (Anonymous)
2007-10-31 11:08 pm (UTC)
Hi Tony. Just to let you know that your poem HENGE, BARROW AND MIDSUMMER HILL is now up on
http://megalithicpoems.blogspot.com/ Please let me know if you want me to change anything.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-11-01 09:52 am (UTC)
Thanks. That's great.

An the accompanying photo of Silbury is just what I had in mind.
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