Category Archives: history

Herepath

Wide as ten men abreast
The old road cuts between farms
Dips down to the river
Rises up over the moor
Rabbits lollop, lambs bleat
Rosebay glows at sunset
Where were the wars that you marched to?
Where were the victories that you won?
Here on the old Herepath
The road truly goes ever on

Copyright © 2018 Kim Whysall-Hammond

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Winter Hill

Steep green turfed pudding
summit ringing terraces
slopes carved by sheepen hooves,
local springs, winter born, fill a surrounding pool.

Built near ancestral dead, venerable springs,
the great stone circles
and an ancient way once trodden by mammoth.
The largest winter hill and the last,
Silbury still haunts and surprises.

Copyright © 2018 Kim Whysall-Hammond

This great last monument of the Stone Age in England is not far from where I live, and continually fascinates me. Image from and further information at heritageaction

‘I shall not wholly die’

On this date in 8 BC a great poet died. We know him as Horace. Much of his work is still relevant 2,025 years later.

I feel his best translator is Dryden, and I give you this little snippet from The Odes, Book One, IX:

Tomorrow and its works defy;
Lay hold upon the present hour,
And snatch the pleasures passing by
To put them out of Fortune’s power;
Nor love nor love’s delights disdain –
Whate’er thou getts’t today, is gain.

I am very grateful to the Muddy Archeologist for reminding me  of the date and getting me to re-read some Horace. And for giving us a brace of pertinent Horace quotes at the link below:

https://muddyarchaeologistcouk.wordpress.com/2017/11/24/radio-4-presented-by-horace-i-shall-not-wholly-die-horace-lives-on-on-the-anniversary-of-his-death-in-8-bc/#like-4740

Fireworks over England (Penny for the Guy)

Flying across England on Fawkes night,
peering down onto fiery blooms
sending light into the night,
bright chrysanthemums burnt to celebrate failed terrorism.
Fireworks and neighbourhood bonfires spark and glow each November
in long and splendid tradition, now organised and commercial.

But where is my Guy Fawkes?
Built each childhood year from old clothes stuffed with straw,
wheeled around the street, “Penny for the Guy please?”,
burnt on the family bonfire amid fireworks bought with the proceeds of my begging.
Tradition lost in a land that wants to go back on itself once more.

We also used to play in the Trafalgar Square fountains,
splashing in icy midwinter,
kissing Policemen at the stroke of midnight,
fraternity with authority on the turn of the year.
Now crowds buy tickets to watch fireworks over the Thames, passively.
We no longer make our own festivals, they are arranged for us.

We need to take back the small anarchies,
set off Fireworks in our own gardens in November,
burn the Guy as effigy of all we are told to be frightened of,
embrace the neighbours, we are all in this together.
Whatever colour or creed.

Copyright © 2017 Kim Whysall-Hammond

This weekend, the British celebrate Bonfire Night  with fireworks and large bonfires.  The tradition of burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes on the bonfire has all but disappeared.  We also don’t tend to set off our own fireworks in our gardens anymore, but go to large neighbourhood displays.

Of course, the classic poem, that we all learnt when very young, is:

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

Slow Dance

My land was carved in a slow dance
Glacier in, glacier out
Wind and rain overlies the slow dance
Smoothing smoothing
The rhythm of climate is our slow dance
Beat heats up, beat cools down
Industry changed the tempo of Earths slow dance
Faster faster, hotter hotter
We all move to the rhythm of this slow dance
Species come and species go
The way it has always been………..

 

Copyright © 2017 Kim Whysall-Hammond

Ridgeway

Tombs, forts and settlements
String the Ridgeway
As beads on a necklace
Testifying to ancient use
Above the spring line and refreshment
On a hot Summers day
The white chalk is hard walking
Reflecting sunlight back onto the traveller
When wet, millennia of churning feet and wheels
Have crafted a deep sucking cloying mudclay
Is it true that you continue on and under the sea?
A road so old that it predates the English Channel
Is humbling

Walking from the great stones of Avebury
Up through fields to the ridgeline
Following in the steps of so many
Stumbling in snow through ramparts
Thrown up three thousand years ago
Passing where the Smith of the Norse gods
Will shoe tethered horses
Looking down on the rolling plain
Or trudging deep within the occasional copse
Fires my imagination
Brings to mind stories, legends
Archaeological finds and study

Copyright © 2017 Kim Whysall-Hammond

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air….

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
– Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Pt Off. John Gillespie Magee, Jr, RCAF, 1941

 

John Magee was a Canadian Spitfire pilot in England in World War 2. He died in 1941. This poem is just wonderful and has been quoted again and again —I remember Ronald Reagan quoting it after the Challenger crash.

I wish I could write like this.

Tombs

Great men die, and so they lie
In their tombs and graves
Glorified, magnified
By their followers and slaves

Quiet mounds on the Downs
Lasting through the many ages
May cover cruel tyrants
Rather than wise sages

All men must die, all tombs will lie

Copyright © 2017 Kim Whysall-Hammond

https://howardwilliamsblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/10/archaeologists-agree-that-most-ancient-tombs-were-built-for-complete-aholes/

Bosworth Field

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A gentle breeze billows the green barley
Sending waves shimmering from hedge to hedge
Elder and Herb Robert sparkle the field edge
Above the oak leaves do not stir

Near here a crown once hung on a thorn bush
Men struggled for cause, battle cries rang out
A King died alone fighting amid the foe
Violated in death, lost
Naked and broken the victors took him to town for display
Traitor they called him, an anointed King of England
Hunchback, wicked, perfidious
Name calling by the new regime
Murderer of children they whispered into the stream of history

A gentle breeze billows the green barley
Above the oak leaves do not stir

Copyright © 2017 Kim Whysall-Hammond