Friday, July 6, 2012

Chalk; A poem by Jeremy Hooker

This poem came from a library book long out of print, called Soliloquies of a Chalk Giant by Jeremy Hooker.  The book had to go back to the library but I managed to copy a couple of the poems, and I must have written to him about the provenance of another poem.  Hooker came from Southampton but a lot of his working life was spent in Wales as a lecturer.  His heroes were Edward Thomas and  Richard Jefferies and his writing here captures the essence of chalk on the downlands and the long line of prehistory as those first neolithic people settled on this dry upland.  So as I have no title I shall call it Chalk, to go with a youtube video on meditation that Bovey Belle has put up on her blog  and also to speed  BBs recovery too getting better.
Collecting a stone, feather or a shell stays with us from childhood, the act of collecting a wild flower or some token is a reminder of the natural world and our place in it.  Macfarlane would always collect a stone from where ever he walked, the bright whiteness of quartz, or the the dark stones of the cliffs.  Natural chalk figures can be found round Avebury, take the Green Road up to the downs and you can pick strangely shaped lumps of chalk or even flint nodules their shiny surface sometimes like striped toffee. Such collections will litter a window sill with their untidiness, I remember picking up a small bluestone stone, and marvelling at the slaty-blue colour not quite believing that this particular type of stone was quarried here on Carn Menyi  in South-West Wales and transported all the way down to Stonehenge in Wessex.  But at the same time that small fragment of stone held in my hand felt like something special, and now with the new theories they are saying that the building of Stonehenge was a way uniting  the many clans and tribes from all over Britain perhaps those special bluestones were transported down to the sea to follow the paths of sea and rivers till at last they arrived in another land.......
From my walk yesterday, I bought home the barred brown feather of a hawk and some wild oat grass I think, as the grasses and the red flowers of the docks are at their best alongside the pale pink of the mallows...

Chalk

A memorial of its origins, chalk in barns and churches
moulders in rain and damp;petrified creatures swim
in its depths.

It is domestic, with the homeliness of an ancient
hearth exposed to the weather, pale with the ash of
countless primeval fires. Here the plough grates on an
urnfield, the green plover stands with crest erect on
a royal mound.

Chalk is the moon's stone; the skeleton is native to its
soil. It looks anaemic, but has submerged the type-sites
of successive cultures. Stone, bronze, iron; all are assimilated to
its nature;
and the hill-forts follow its curves.

These, surely, are the works of giants; temples
re-dedicated to the sky-god, spires fashioned for the
lords of bowmen;

Spoils of the worn idol, squat Venus of the mines.

Druids leave their shops in the midsummer solstice;
neophytes tread an antic measure to the antlered god.
Men who trespass are soon absorbed, horns laid beside
them in the ground. The burnt-out tank waits beside
the barrow.

The god is a graffito carved on the belly of the chalk,
his savage gesture subdued by the stuff of his creation.
He is taken up like a gaunt white doll by the round hills,
wrapped around by the long pale hair of the fields.





No photos from now on, unless I get particularly wealthy, which is really not on the cards...

2 comments:

  1. Oh lovely, LOVELY - thank you Thelma. The chalklands call to me nearly as much as the moor does. I am going to copy that poem and keep it somewhere precious, and of course, I love the links of Jeremy Hooker with Edward Thomas and Richard Jefferies. (Hah, and we share the link with Southampton too, my home town!)

    You are a magpie like me, collecting little bits and pieces. I have half a shattered Kimmeridge Ammonite on my desk in front of me as I write, and a heftier whole one (well worn) nearby.

    BTW, I got rid of quite a few of my old ordinary photos from much earlier blogging posts as I can't afford to buy more room for photos either.

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  2. Glad you enjoyed the poem Jenny, it just seemed so right with that video as well.
    Will try and sort through my many blogs and delete some photos as well, had not thought of that.
    Actually a lot of my stones I put in a black bag, including a large amethyst, with other stuff to throw into my son-in-law's land rover to bring back. Unfortunately there was a black bag of rubbish and guess which one I picked up!

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