Sunday, June 17, 2007

Wayland's Smithy and the White Horse

Wayland's Smithy

I once blew a blast into the Blowing Stone, which rolled a hollow wave of sepulchral sound into the hills. The megalith builders, taking their lesson from the conch-shells of the Eastern Mediterranean, blew into this very stone to summon the gods or, more probably, the goddess of the high places. Another two miles and there is the goddess herself or rather, the celtic descendant of the goddess, stretched in white and in flight across the bald brow of Uffington Hill. The downs lift to 800 feet and by their very godliness of combe and crescent, of jutting ness and plunging spur, ordain the tie beam of White Horse Hill to be one more of the holy places of the chalk. So it was on Windover Hill.... and so it is here where the Celtic town of Uffington is flanked by the galloping horse and a Neolithic workshop on the one side, and the chambered long barrow of Wayland's Smithy with its grove of beeches on the other........

H.J.Massingham - English Downland

White Horse of Uffington

Massingham walked the Ridgeway through Berkshire and on to Avebury, he savoured the great beauty of these soft downland uplands, he likens the Manger below the Horse as a "tree butt", and stopped and blew into the Blowing Stone which he felt sure our neolithic forefathers had once done as well. All this perhaps 80 years ago, his love of the English countryside and its villages and history are a reminder of those more nostalgic times before the roads became congested with cars and the noise of our modern society.

Places have there own special magic, The Ridgeway one of the great green trackways that follow the dry uplands, prehistoric people followed this track, driving their animals, trading their goods, moving through a landscape very different to what it is today. They would have come upon the Neolithic Barrow, but it would'nt have had its smithy legend then, what legend it had we can only guess at, a burial place for the local clan, a gathering place for ceremony.

Its been restored since Massingham passed by, and now has an almost cathedral atmosphere, a neatness that is modern and structured, and perhaps does not reflect its original state. Be that as it may, it still has the air of profound majesty, it reminds us that this stone monument has survived thousands of years, and dear old Moss standing atop it oblivious to history and death is also a reminder that humankind and animals are linked over the centuries too...

And a poem that is not so gentle....

As I Came, I Saw a Wood Ted Hughes
Where trees craned in dirt, clutching at the sky
Like savages photographed in the middle of a ritual
Birds danced among them and animals took part
Insects too and around their feet flowers

And time was not present none ever stopped
Or left anything old or reached any new thing
Everything moved in an excitement that seemed permanent

They were so ecstatic,
I could go in among them, touching them,even break pieces off them
Pluck up flowers, without disturbing them in the least.
The birds simply flew wide, but were not for one moment distracted.
From the performance of their feathers and eyes.
And the animals the same, though they avoided me
They did so with holy steps and never paused
In the glow of fur which was their absolution in sanctity

And their obedience, I could see that.

I saw I stood in a paradise of tremblings

At the crowded crossroads of all the heavens
the festival of the religions.

But a voice, a bell of cracked iron
Jarred in my skull
Summoning me to prayer
To eat flesh and drink blood.

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