Category Archives: history

At Stratford with William

From above I watch the story unfold
Bask in dense poetry
The pleasure of  words and phrasing
So pertinent to the action
To the people laying out their very lives in front of us
I laugh uproariously then
Gasp as the knife plunges
Hold my breath
Knowing from schooldays the inevitable end
But hoping this time, here, now
That tragedy can somehow not play out on this stage
That all must come right even for this poor foolish reprobate
Sit shaken, still, grieving
Then
Stand and  roar my appreciation
My hands clap fast and hard  above my head
I grin in sheer pleasure at the craft and art
That has been spun out this evening
As the story concludes and the players bow

Copyright © 2017  Kim Whysall-Hammond

We will be seeing Macbeth at Stratford this week!

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Being English

Show no emotion, hold everything back
Say ’I think we need a bit of support’ when you are under fatal attack
Go about your business as the world falls apart
Hiding the fear deep in your heart
Delight in the odd, the strange and the weird
Live beside the newcomer, even if they are feared
Chicken Tikka Marsala is our national dish,
An island nation that rarely eats fish,
Throw flowers under a princesses hearse
Life may be difficult but it could always be worse
Marry the outsider, swallow them whole
Quiet, loving and different is the English soul

Copyright © 2015 Kim Whysall-Hammond

First blogged in 2015 and it seems a bit appropriate this week. I admit that both people in the photo not actually English….but its a great photo!

Times path

Wide track striped white across high grass
draped in silence, excepting faint bird calls.
Wedged between high ground and rolling plain,
edged and encrusted with time’s memorials,
entrances to unremembered dead amid pasture land
and we walkers.

The old earthworks cannot speak,
but they glow in my mind, calling.

If space and time are multidimensional,
could we not walk another way round
sidle through and back.

Meet the neighbours.

Copyright © 2018 Kim Whysall-Hammond

Somerset Tsunami

The surprise flood leaps high up the church wall
infusing its stones with estuarine silts.
Priests exalt the Lord, gladdened by long awaited  Armageddon
prepared to guide their flocks to heaven
or to hell.
The press of water and terror makes it difficult to breathe
the fields are indigo like the winter sea
they are the winter sea now.
Sheep murmur in the waters.

Copyright © 2018 Kim Whysall-Hammond

A large portion of Somerset, in the West Country, is very low-lying. It is called the Somerset Levels, and still floods today at time of very high rainfall, despite drainage canals.

On a sunny 30th January 1607, there was a sudden, very high, flood. The written descriptions  from the time describe the sea receding before the wave arrived and that the wave rushed in faster than people could run. A crowd of people stood and watched the high wave coming towards them until it was too late to run. It is now understood that the ‘Flood’ was a tsunami.

 

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

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