19 May 2014

Ode on Belas Knap

Long mound, by day, reclines in winter sun
   and stretches sleepily its turfy back
stacked neat on dry bone membrane, steelblade spun,
   four chambers nestling underneath stone rack.
Along grass flanks, three eyes survey the wold,
   the south is blind, but fifth, the northern orb,
      sits twixt stout horns to transport phantoms through;
this sees no Earth, no leaf buds to unfold,
   no steep wood shade where nature starts to daub
      a springtime carpet, of a greening hue.

Chill tomb, by night, releases spectral cries
   to haunt barn owl, who shudders though he wield
his hunting claws, while moonlit silver skies
   cast eerie flickers over hilltop field.
Crack-crack! A fire ignites atop the knoll
   and from the spirit portal souls emerge
      to circle and to leap the ghosts of flames;
shapes round the ring, a stocky mare and foal,
   a chortling boar, as underground streams surge
      in sheer delight to witness ancient games.

* * *

This is the second poem of the Festival series, with a slightly alternative approach to previous pieces! Whereas the pantoum, fourteener and waltzer take inspiration principally from Happenstance performances, this poem merges performance and imagination. (I sought approval from the Squire for this endeavour; ’twas generously bestowed.)

The ode form is familiar to me, as I studied English Lit. as one of my A-levels and Keats featured quite a lot. Classes didn’t include writing poetry, however, so when I came to compose my first ode a couple of years ago, I googled ‘how to write an ode’, to find out how many lines and how many stresses an ode requires, in addition to refreshing my memory concerning the rhyme scheme.

My odes tend to consist of just two verses, as I prefer to write shorter poems. And my experience as a member of an online poetry group is that people prefer to read shorter poems! The famous odes are longer; examples may be accessed via Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ode

I follow the common rhyme scheme of an English ode (ABABCDECDE) and I write with iambic pentameter in my ears simply because I feel it fits the form well. There’s more on iambic pentameter at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iambic_pentameter

I enjoyed writing this poem, recalling both the Morris performance and trips to Belas Knap, and discussing the geography of the area with Mrs T., who told me about Liz Poraj-Wilczynska and some of her findings. I read a bit of archaeology too and I liked especially the suggestion that the false entrance is a ‘spirit door’ (http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/belas-knap-long-barrow/history-and-research/).

The spirit sequence itself, however, complete with chortling boar, is mine… all mine! (P-i-R laughs wildly.)