Monday, November 12, 2007

Edward Thomas - Spirit of Place - Cornwall


The following are short extracts from The South Country written by Edward Thomas when he travelled in Cornwall. His prose has the magical touch of Jefferies, and Thomas did indeed write a biography of Jefferies. Strangely when I was looking for a piece of writing for today, Rememberance Sunday, I was looking for Siegfried Sassoon's bleak poetry on war, but listening to some evocative music on the radio by Butterworth "The Banks of Green Willow" it struck me that what so many soldiers died for in the Great War was this marvellous expression of love and empathy for a countryside full of summer flowers and a history that stretched back in time.Thomas writes about the bronze age barrows that are strung along the cliff tops looking outward to sea, his prehistory is somewhat muddled, Beowulf is alluded to, and a lovely extract on a stone circle evokes druids the inscription upon the chair of the Bards of Beisgawen was 'Nothing is that is not for ever and ever'. Poetical licence must be granted in lieu of the truth, the factual accounting of today which drags the mind away from lilting prose should be set aside...



On the barrows themselves, which are either isolated or in a group of two or three, grow thistle and gorse. They command mile upon mile of cliff and sea. In their sight the great headland run out to sea and sinking seem to rise again a few miles out in a sheer island, so that they resemble couchant beasts with backs under water but heads and haunches upreared .......




....and near by the blue sea, slightly roughened as by a harrow, sleeps calm but foamy among cinder-covered isles; donkeys graze on the brown turf, larks rise and fall and curlews go by; a cuckoo sings amongst the deserted mines. But the barrows are most noble on the high heather and grass. The lonely turf is full of lilace scabious flowers and crimson knapweed among the solid mounds of gorse. The brown-green-grey of the dry summer grass reveals myriads of the flowers of the thyme, of stonecrop yellow and white, of pearly eyebright, of golden lady's fingers, and the white or grey clover with its purest and earthest of all fragrances

On every hand lies cromlech, camp, circle, hut and tumulus of the unwritten years. They are confused and and mingled with the natural litter of a barren land. It is a silent Bedlam of history, a senseless cemetery or museum, amidst which we walk as animals must do when they see those valleys full of skeleton where their kind are said to go punctually to die. There are enough of the dead; they outnumber the living, and there those trite truths burst with life and drum upon the typpanum with ambigous fatal voices. At the end of this many barrowed moor, yet not in it, there is a solitary circle of grey stones, where the cry of the past is less vociferous, less bewildering, than on the moor itself, but more intense. Nineteen tall, grey stones stand round a taller, pointed one that is heavily bowed, amidst long grass and bracken and furze. A track passes close by, but does not enter the circle; the grass is unbent except by the wieght of its bloom. It bears a name that connects it with the assembling and rivalry of the bards of Britain. Here, under the sky, they met, leaning upon the stones, tall fair men of peace, but half warriors, whose songs could change ploughshares into sword. Here they met, and the growth of the grass, the perfection of the stones(except that one stoops as with age), and the silence, suggest that since the last bard left it, in robe of blue or white or green - the colours of sky and cloud and grass upon this fair day - the circle has been unmolested, and the law obeyed which forbade any but a bard to enter it........And the inscription on the chair of the bards of Beisgawen was "nothing is that is not for ever and ever" - these things and the blue sky, the white, cloudy hall of the sun, and the green bough and grass, hallowed the ancient stones, and clearer than any vision of tall bards in the morning of the world was the tranquil delight of being thus ' teased out of time' in the presence of this ancientness,....

The Stone circle of Beisgawen is in actual fact Boscawen -Un

http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/229/boskawenun.html

The Banks of Green Willows.....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8Q9dz1kse8

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