Tag Archives: history

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.




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


Slender bones, delicately traced
staring grinning skulls.
No skin, no muscle,
no eyes, no heart or other parts.
Yet they tell a knowing eye many tales
of wounds healed, muscle strengths,
diseases and battles fought.
Indications of the life lived
and sometimes the death faced.


Copyright © 2017 Kim Whysall-Hammond

‘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:


Hidden Freedoms

Child of Empire, he freely starved in Valetta
Free to resent the many fat priests
Free to go
Desperate, hoping

Stowaway to Istanbul
Free to be beaten by the Ottomans
Sent back to hunger
Not stopped yet

Stowaway to Britain
Set loose in Imperial London
Free to prosper
Free to work

Free-diver repairing Brighton’s Pier
Freely volunteered in 1914’s Expeditionary Force
Free to marry, to be British
Free to stay

Forty descendants, freely British
Freely given gifts of a Maltese boy
Seven fought in British wars
Immigration can be a free gift

Copyright © 2017 Kim Whysall-Hammond

Written for Today’s National Poetry Day, which this year has the theme of Freedom.

As usual, when given a prompt or theme, my mind heads off slightly askew. This poem tells some of the story of my Maltese Grandfather. He came to Britain as a stowaway with nothing, found welcome and work. We need to remember how many of us are descended from people like him — and to remember to allow others similar freedoms.


Liquid eyes looking through time,  staring out from the wood
Lost possession,  unregarded litter, draft for a larger work?
It is treasure now
Seal eloquently sealed into timber
Sparse lines, rich artistry

Copyright © 2017 Kim Whysall-Hammond

seal carving

I’ve just discovered an interibfng wordpress arceological site amd was moved to write the above poem after looking long at a seal carving they have found.



Nunalleq is the name of an archaeological site in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region of Southwestern Alaska. The University of Aberdeen Department of Archaeology, in partnership with the village corporation Qanirtuuq, Inc. and the Yup’ik Eskimo village of Quinhagak, Alaska, is working to record archaeological sites threatened by rising sea levels along the Bering Sea.

Nunalleq means ‘the OldVillage’ in Yup’ik. Previous years excavations (2009 & 2010) reveal that this ‘old village’ dates back at least 700 years. It is a multi-period prehistoric (or precontact) Yup’ik winter village site.


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.


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


Bosworth Field


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



Chalk undulates across Southern England
Hills, gentle yet steep
Can be overtopped by clay peppered with flints
So treasured by the old folk

As old as the hills is true here
The chalk is a two hundred million year ocean
Stiffened and folded over time
By our living planet

Several human species
Have hunted  in these valleys
Have dug into and sculpted these hills
Have left their ghosts for us to trace

The ancient monuments we treasure
Hill forts, stone circles, long barrows
Are but modern remnants
Compared to the first folk

My hills have deep roots

Copyright © 2017 Kim Whysall-Hammond