Sunday, August 11, 2013

Leskernick - Stone Worlds

Below is a poem written about an excavation on Leskernick Hill on Bodmin Moor, it is to the north of this moor we were more to the south. It comes from a book called - Stone Worlds - Narrative and Reflectivity in Landscape Archaeology and from what I have read so far fascinating, it encompasses in its long text, the thoughts of the people who excavated this prehistoric settlement, and the poem reflects this. When prehistory reveals itself there is no 'truth' thoughts are based on speculation and feeling for the deep significance the landscape holds, this landscape is a palimpset of layers of history, whether it be a lost medieval settlement, or the industrial workings of the tin mines that lie scattered on the moor.  You try to plough a straight furrow of thought, but that is a foolishness and in the end you must resort to the trickier realms of allowing the imagination to interpret what you see, finding along the way that abstract thought that Tilley (one of the authors) aspires to and which I have written about here... Phenomenology some time ago...

The Search for Ancestors on the Moor by Jan Farquharson

I see stones

I think of reed-thatch, sod fires, post and ringbeams,

The lives of people who lived here, the hair on their faces..,

I see stones

I dream of cattle, figures in file, thick hut-shadow, sooted women,
a boy with a stick, a man with meat on his short back,
fur shod, self-conscious, unsure of his welcome,
a conclave of elders, bickering, parley...

I see stones

I see stones, one edge meeting another,
upright, three stones together, a stone post fallen,
a backstone, bedrock, hearthstone, and stones pushed out of alignment
by turf weighted by stone, by water, turf and stone....
I see the stones of thirty huts scattered.

I pick my way where walls were.
I face the wind where hands and feet fretted.

We trouble this place with buckets and pegs,

tripods, stratigraphies and excavation,
the rational grope of theories and spades.

I climb to get away from sadness.

I climb the hill and the hill falls away around me, 

The hilltop surges flat, is grass nibbled by sheep
who run and stop and stare, the cairn is broken...

I cannot climb any higher

The moor rotates before and behind me,

waved and flickering and nicked by rock.
I look for places, for accents, crinkles, habitation.
I look for what will arrest looking

I cannot climb any higher

I see a windfarm and blueish space beyond

which has the appearance of a sea beyond this sea.

Skylarks, ponies, sheep, scurf the shoulders of decaying granite,

runkled sheets of bog and sod pare each other to the horizon.

I cannot climb any higher

I cannot people the sky


  1. That is beautiful Thelma - I intend to read it out at our next Poetry meeting. To anyone who lives in the area I am sure it is even more beautiful. Thank you for that.

  2. Well I am pleased that it has made an impression on you, I suspect the poet must have been one of the diggers, contemplating the lost world that his trowel was unwittingly destroying....

  3. It's beautiful Thelma. The end is how I feel standing on the tors.

    1. Hi Em, yes I envy you your tors, such strange formations. In fact Leskernick Hill does not have a tor, but during the Neolithic time they put up what looks like a cromlech, the book calls it the 'Propped Stone' in lieu of the missing natural glacial stones...

  4. What a beautiful poem and I love the way that the poet (digger for sure!) wants to try and capture the sense of PLACE, rather than just recording the facts that stratigraphy and small finds give. Joining up the dots to make a whole . . .

    1. Hi Jennie, yes it conveys that impression beautifully. There is a dig next month to uncover the quartz path way that runs between the Hurler stone circles - we are very tempted, though not on the digging side ;)