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Posts Tagged ‘history’

THE HEATHER NOW

The heather now clouds the hills:

in sunlight, a drift of heaven,

In low, slow rains it is

the colour of sunset storm clouds.

When does solitude turn to loneliness?

.

Fifteen years the eagle flew here.

From Tregaron to Llanwrtyd her hidden throne.

Seeing more than most,

the season’s swift tides blanching the bracken,

green then gold, copper then rust.

.

More than meets the eye,

these growing voids, these lost things, named,

forgotten, decayed, consumed.

A worm eye’s view is the beginning and end

of each transformative engine.

.

New names and a new breath.

A scattering of syllables,

a cry long and fading,

high in the cloudless sky.

A land of stoic disappointment

lies below.

.

The yews of Abergwesyn,

the yew of Llanfechan,

the chapel yew at Cefn Gorwydd

all holding on, deserted.

Folding history into themselves

and holding on.

.

The eldest springs here

are all purging and bitter.

They will keep the long death away

but they too are long forgotten.

.

The hay is in despite the rains,

and the sheep down from the hill.

Good governance is as far away as ever.

.

The eagle free in its vast prison.

Solitude and vision

and the slow rains

washing it all clean away.

.

For the last fifteen years a golden eagle has lived in our area, escaped from captivity somewhere, it has lived alone for sll this time. Just recently found dead -probably of old age.

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WAR HAS CAST THEM

War has cast them off the mountain

And they have never yet returned

Except their tattered ghosts minding flocks

And the wind and the rain and the ravens.

The stone, green under soil.

The soil, black under sedge.

The distance sailing above cloud

Shaped by worlds beyond reach,

Reciting the names, reciting the names.

SOME GO

They weave these times of plague

with threads of brighter days.

Sharing the names of farms and families:

Nain, hen nain, hen hen nain,

and the tales of the tales she told.

The hearths swept and re-laid

for an eventual return

after the storms of the world blow by;

the family bible left open at Lamentations.

Some go into the hills,

finding the silent walls

moss green, wide strewn;

the signs all but lost,

like the songs of living and dying:

the songs of harvest, the songs of planting,

the songs of weaving, the songs of lamenting,

the songs of losing and of finding.

It is the songs of living

that we have lost forever;

the songs of simple doing

that told us we were not alone

in feeling the rhythms of breath

as muscles worked and tasks completed.

It is all silent in the hills now.

cloud and curlew,

raven and lark.

Memories fade

as the farmhouse walls

tumble under moss.

Hold on to the names,

the farms, the families,

the cherished dead.

Over their heads

the world changes.

Plague days,

words dying.

The Epynt is an area of high uplands between the Brecon Beacons and the Cambrian Mountains in Mid Wales. A strong, rural, Welsh speaking area, the Epynt was cleared of people at the start of the Second World War so that the land could become an artillery training area. Eighty farms were given a few months to pack up and leave, breaking and dispersing a robust culture to find their own way miles away from their homes. After eighty years the land is still possessed by the government and this year many descendents have got together to remember their families, where they lived, where they moved, who remembers tales of the old days.

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ON STRUMBLE HEAD

A scribble the shape of ghost emotion

locked in a dark of its own

eroded by slow dissipations.

Attenuated solidity, it dusts and fragments,

worn to grit and feathers – like the scoop of ravens

haunting the far and airless void of fractured cliff.

.

So it is the sun shines down this stooping lane.

So it is the sky stretches out cloud as thin as yesteryear

down to a sea-wet sunset.

.

This scribble root of gorse, buried and unburied

in a wall of lost time, scuffed by sheep,

peeled back by tooth of buck rabbit

and the hungry fox who is a poet for worms

and small chances in the night.

.

We slope down, we slope down,

a curved limb and a slow-motion fall.

The land reaches out, reaches out,

so in love it is with the distant perfect horizon.

The whitest lighthouse walls, a geometric parable of steps,

a blessing and a curse of isolation.

Here, it says,

not here, it says,

you are going, have gone,

astray.

.

This tower of the last word, reaching upwards in rain and spume.

A dancer, as a tree is, as a gorse bush is,

straining against gravity and used to failing beautifully

with grace and a small distance in the smile,

a cool distance where perfection lingers before it melts.

.

A ringing landscape song: thin lanes,

long and running bravely to thin air.

Dead ends, dead endings where the ravens wait

soaring up the world’s edges,

soaring up to taste the distant crashing,

testing the resilience of time against

the pump of heartbeats.

.

Small things matter, so close we are here to edges,

where the wind throws all opposition down

and the pastel fragile seasons

dress and undress eternal moments.

There is a transparency in the air

above Strumble Head, a wind-blown kiss,

a word of farewell.

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LAMINATION

These words have gathered themselves together

Like swallows in a cooling sky.

Dark news from the cities

Where fools hold sway.

The stone at Llanlleonfel hardly speaks,

Stuttered in silence, its lines unread.

The stone of Llanynis taken to safety,

A kind replica gathers moss in an empty field.

The stones of Llanddewi Cwm, the woven stones,

Broken and holy, no one sees any more.

Words there are dying, eagle cries scratched and fading.

The stones of Gelynos subside into their own graves,

Locked in roots, bound by promises, muttering names.

The stone at Llanwrtyd, the old view subverted,

The road to world’s roof pitted, empty.

Is it still there in the darkness?

A mystery looking out, an old palm resting in an old lap,

As if after despair.

The stones of Llanafanfawr, huddled safe from storm,

Root words that mean their opposites, that savour contradiction.

The stone of Llangamarch, bestowing its blessing on jackdaws,

By the river’s edge in the water’s roar.

A storm of awen stripping away discourse.

A scroll rolled and unrolled a galaxy away.

The stone of Cilmeri, where hope died,

Where hope is offered flowers continually fading.

A place to lose heads, to find a well of eventual peace.

All these stones cold, hard, mute.

They can not tell of our futures here,

Though they remember the past,

And that, they all know, is the same thing.

The stone of Llanlleonfel is an Early Dark Age memorial to two fallen Welsh warriors inside the small church at Lllanlleonfel. The script is hardly readable now, the exploits forgotten.

The stone at Llanynis is a deftly carved pillar cross, removed to a local museum, but replaced with a fair reproduction, leaning isolated in a cleared graveyard.

The stones of Llanddewi Cwm, are no longer in situ. They consisted of deeply carved interlace patterns, once part of a free-standing cross stone.

Gelynos is an early Non-Comformist chapel site on a hillside road. Its walls long gone, its gravestones tipped and sinking into the earth.

Llanwrtyd stone is a memorial stone with abstracted Celtic-style head, lost within the depths of an old church nave.

The stones of Llanafanfawr are enigmatic geometrical carvings now placed into the porch wall.

The Llangamarch carving is above the church porch. It has a representation of a figure holding a spiral below a sun wheel cross.

The stone at Cilmeri was placed last century in memory of the death of the last great Llewelyn, Prince of Wales, ambushed and slain here.

All these stones are in, or look over, the Irfon Valley in mid-Wales, where I live. The title ‘Lamination’, which is name given to the weathering deterioration of these old carvings, is also a play on ‘lamentation’, particularly the Biblical Lamentations of Jeremiah, so popular in the Reformation for its relentless descriptions of ungodliness and destruction of nations.

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LLANLLEONFEL STONE ( our geography)

There is a stone there, fixed there
(though only stubborn fools would try to move it),
that speaks when the light falls right from the small aisle windows.
Not yet worn smooth but mute enough to be overlooked by most,
as the owls were in the rafters.
As old as the crows in the yew grove dark and silent.
As old as the bitter spring that bubbles from the hillside
As old as the view perched high, a respite from season’s battles.
Hidden is Llanlleonfel, hidden in trees, hidden its path,
forgotten its signs, next to the farmyard,
a barn storing memories and lowing souls.
The words slope down, they fall down, bow down.
Sorrowful words in proud stone, like the world itself, like the world.
Hanging on by a thread to meaning and remembering,
a small rippling on the glass hard surface of winter light
long shadows cast between sunlit hills.
Two names named, so well known, now forgotten,
Waiting waiting tight in their shrouds for the day to waken,
To be judged and born again as heroes that they were.
Left here stranded as the roar of history passes by,
Nothing here now but sheep tugging at the hillside grasses.

Here lies Iorwerth and Rhiwallon,
(Yet they are all dissolved now to earth and water, breath and light),
Tightly wrapped in the world’s dreaming shroud,
As they ever have been, as we ever have been,
Swaddled between sunset and sunrise,
Growing and diminishing with shadow fall.
Worn down and away to whispers
to ripples, to silence.

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BITTER , EVEN

Am nyt vo nyt vyd
Nyt vid am nyt vo

Since it may not be , it shall not be;
It shall not be since it may not be.

A bard would waste no time, waste no words.
(A flaying knife of quick tongue
to buck up the drowsing drunken lords.)

Forty years thrown away for one curious look
Beyond a dusty door.

The balm of forgetting ( the long war over)
The balm of art and of companionship
Shattered in cold salt winds.

The little island storm-wracked,
No pilgrims given shelter.

Proud Arthur unearthed the protecting head –
He thought the land needed nothing
But force and brave bluster
To keep it sound and sovereign.

Manawyddan turned cobbler
Who should have been king.
He chose a small, good life
Rather than justifiable strife.

And the bard knows,
The bard knows
That the future is a waste land, forever unmade.
And the present, only the hiss of foam spray
At the very edge of an eternal ocean,
The roaring, ever-flowering, accumulating past.

Boet gwir venhyt
Dragwynawl byt

Let there be true joy
In the sorrowful world.

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Our Geography (1)

Our geography is mellow and tear-washed,
meandering and mud-stained.
It dreams through mist and slanting rains,
bites its lip and grasps the rooted valley sides.
It sends out messengers and bards
on posts and cries their hovered song.
It wears its history against a fickle, fast future;
views as unbecoming the speed of our own descent.
Though welcomes us back always
to its folded silences.

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ALL THAT GLORY

All that glory, bred from blood and rot.
Ground bones to feed the noble good.
The Myrddin in us turns away.
Our Taliesin mocks the solicitous bards.
The histories of truth shall never be written.
The honest shall be driven mad
And disappear, unknown, unnamed,
Fuel for the mysteries of the deeps within.
This is the fabled cloth that suffocates us,
Memories rich, embroidered, gold-threaded,
Dreaming of heroes and just cause.

There was one who refused to give reasons,
And won by losing everything.
Who refused to be wise, refused to be violent
Who turned the wheel of matter
To become the spiral of eternity.
A simple seed buried and buried again.
Though cut each time it arises, given names and deeds,
Smothered again, tutored and redacted.

The first, the oldest gods, were not heroes.
They were farmers and dreamers, dexterous handed.
They were mothers and weavers, nursemaids, cooks.
Manawydan, king of Britain, best of cobblers.
He knew the loud ones take the power, write the stories.
He knew the land would grow empty, as always,
Drained by strife and pride, good and bad all cut down.
He kept his eye on the corners of things, on the smallest,
On the fine tendrils of futures, on the goodness
Of quiet satisfactions. There is no precedence
As we drift towards the doors of death.
Only goodness or bitterness will remain.
And the smallest of things, the smallest that sustain the rest,
Will do what they must, unwatched, unnamed, unknown
Woven through ephemeral eternities,
The inevitable victory of the insignificant.

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AIRSTRIKE

i am man become tree become sky.
travelling north, grey bridges
vaulting green deep scars,
stitches across the stern uplands of heaven.
roaring waters rush thin and white night and day,
they pay no mind to their lifelong fall.

this winter comes thick and fast
with clear days and deep frost.
i sleep always now upon a bed of stars
dreaming of blank-eyed heroes
mouthing stumbled anthems.

our only hope for glory-
to pretend we have more than this.
though the gardens become wild and ragged,
our minds untended, left to doggedly roam
moss-covered, grass-cloaked ruins,
the words left us, handed down,
untranslateable sorrow.

for this do we make our art:
for the fluorescent eggs of time
hatching diaphanous things
in hopes of worthy, unreasonably beneficent gods,
who have already fed and will not slay us so quickly
but watch, drunken-eyed, indulgent.

histories scab over, but so itch we must scratch
and things will never heal as we would wish.
a bitter cold between dawn.
valley ghosts, the sweep of headlights
heading to cities.
one by one, things shall awake from sleep.

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YSTRAD FFLUR (Variations)

1
Flower valley, quietness complete.
To count the short years of the living,
To count the longer years of the dead.
2
Stones warmed by long late summer sun,
Dew still wet past midday, tears for the lost,
Prayers for them.
3
One arch, one door opening onto blue sky.
A strong door it must be
To have lasted the closing
of so many centuries.
4
Billowed on Deheubarth
Dreamed green weight.
An illuminated landscape
A foliate scroll, inhabited-
The whispers of history.
5
One stone archway,
aisles dew carpeted,
nave ribbed in cloud.
The constant choir is this little stream,
and sheep distant on grazed hills.
One yew of many remains
where the poet robin nests.
Pine and dark beech the only roofs now,
the wheeling kite the only call to vespers.
6
A vessel worn smooth with prayer heals yet and shall forever,
Blessed by its past and the dreaming dead.
A valley wide with flowers, a road ended in tranquillity.
7
Flower valley.
Nothing but peace.
Emptied of longing.
Rested under heaven.

—-

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Ystrad Fflur ( pronounced ust rad fleer) is the Welsh name of Strata Florida Abbey in Mid Wales, north-east of Tregaron. It means ‘valley plain of the river Fflur’, but in Latin has become ‘Flower Valley’. Little remains here except an archway and foundations, but the site and location are memorable in their tranquillity and history. Strata Florida held the official records of the Welsh Kingdoms and actd as the religious heart of the country. A well-known poet Dafydd ap Gwilym (14th century) is said to be buried under the yew in the churchyard. Deheubarth was the name of the Kingdom here. The Nanteos Cup, believed by some to be a contender for the true Holy Grail, was kept at Strata Florida before the dissolution of the monasteries. It was famed for its miraculous healing powers. We visited on a misty, sunny day in late summer. It has a similar atmosphere and sanctified silence to Iona in Scotland, the same intangible presence of history and vigilance.

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