19 May 2014

Song of the Stones

Here we stand upon the plain
   in our weathered ring;
know the nature of our grain,
   hear the song we sing.

Millions of years ago
   on our native land,
steady sea and river flow
   layered silt and sand.

Onto silt-sand water poured,
   full of magic quartz,
formed a solid sarsen hoard
   fit for shielding forts.

Ice Age freeze and thaw swept Earth,
   cracked the sandstone store,
so we boulders had our birth
   as majestic tor.

On the southern downs we lay
   in our grassy bed,
until one New Stone Age day,
   Man came by and said:

‘We have built a healing place
   high on yonder mound;
now we ask, with goodly grace,
   come, protect our ground.’

We agreed and sledge was rolled,
   with five hundreds force,
sky turned purple, red and gold,
   as we took our course.

Then Man raised us with glad cries
   all round bluestones shrine,
stars shone countless wondrous eyes
   on our lofty line.

Thus began our watch to keep
   till the end of time,
when this world at last shall sleep,
   silencing our rhyme.

Here we stand upon the plain
   in our weathered ring;
know the nature of our grain,
   hear the song we sing.

* * *

This poem was inspired by watching Happenstance perform ‘Stones’ at the Festival. It’s another example of a piece that merges performance and imagination. I visited Stonehenge on the way back from a holiday in the New Forest in Autumn 2008 and I enjoyed revisiting the site through music and memories.

The rhythm of the Song takes it cue partly from the beat of the drum that contributes to the music. I hoped to muster the same strength in my writing; in performance, I start each line with a stressed syllable. This is not an iamb, but a trochee (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trochee), with the final word of each line held to make a total of four beats.

Sometimes a poem becomes a song in my head, as I listen to my words while writing them. This song makes for a bit of a spectacle too, as the stones sing of their birth, their journey to Salisbury Plain, and their purpose. I don’t know much about the history of the site, but I found a lot of useful information online (e.g. https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/history-and-research/research/)

The notion that the large outer stones have a protective role, surrounding the smaller ‘bluestones shrine’, is my own, though there are a lot of theories concerning Stonehenge so it wouldn’t surprise me to unearth this via further e-foraging. I like the idea that the site was intended for healing.