Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Game of Henge - Stonehenge

A Game of Henge - Stonehenge

Phillip Gross

A game of Henge, my masters?
The pieces are set. We lost the box
with instructions years ago.

Do you see Hangman? Or
Clock Patience? Building bricks
the gods grew out of? Dominoes?

It's your move. You're in the ring
of the hills, of the stones, of the walls
of your skull. You want to go?

You want out? Good - that's
the game. Whichever way you turn
are doors. Choose. Step through, so...

And whichever world you stumble into
will be different from all the others, only
what they might have been,
you'll never know.
Why choose this poem to celebrate the end of the government's scheme to create a tunnel through the Stonehenge landscape? Maybe because the players in a different game - the government, the archaeologists, the planners, the locals and the protestors are a bit like the chess pieces on the board. They move about, sometimes one side wins and then the balance is reversed by an unexpected move. The unexpected move is of course in the case of the Stonehenge fiasco, money, it will cost too much, its as simple as that, no high minded right action, the act of expanding the road system around this fragile landscape is given a terse few words, which encompass the words "environmentally sensitive", they forgot 'archaeologically sensitive', as I fear the archaeologists did as well.
Still the battle is partly won, as Chris Woodford of Save Stonehenge made clear in a statement last week....
No-one with any sense wanted a tunnel, a flyover, a dual carriageway, and two whacking great interchanges here"
The Stonehenge landscape is a great deal more than the ring of stones that lie at its centre, its importance as a 'sacred' landscape, the great bronze age barrow cemeteries testify to this, should be taken into account; it is a palimpset, layered thickly with the footprints of generations of prehistoric people that have travelled to this place in honour of some long forgotten historic 'sense of place'. Today we do the same, though in truth, without the religious tag, but out of curiosity. Let us hope that when individuals 'play the game' at least they see that the goal of winning must be firmly on the side of Stonehenge set in a landscape that does it justice.
Of course the poem alludes to a disappeared world which we are unable to enter, locked "in the walls of your skull" we imagine past histories, construct elaborate theories. But there are no gods on high to whisper the secrets of Stonehenge.....

Stonehenge Today

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