From RIDGEWAY I: HILL (SILBURY)
‘Traditions relate […] Silbury Hill […] was raised while a posset of milk was seething.’
—Leslie V. Grinsell, Folklore of Prehistoric Sites in Britain, p. 53
Your building took so long, they say—as but
The time for milk to posset on the hearth:
This infant lips imbibed with mamas’ milk.
The crock boiled over?
The brew is seething.
The kiss of spittling suds begins to turn
And juices churn, the yeasty mass to earn,
To work like a charm.
In swelling, puffing, bellying foam
The bulbous globules big, emulsifying
A brobdingnagian pullulating bubble
Superfœtated of filmy scum and spume.
Thus froth mantled up to engender this
Cockaigne-mamelon of clotted whey, this
Pyramid of curds?
From what milch-dug stroked,
From what nipple emulged, this colossus
Of colostrum? Biestings coagulated
A ziggurat, a prepuced papilla
A hundred feet high, of five acres’ girth?
These the inhumations:
of banked ditch,
and tamped rubble:
an August forgotten
to the sod-cutting:
of totemic wood
* * *
Ubi sunt they who ante nos weren
where are now, qui houndes led and hawks beren
who ruled both field and wood?
Those who before
Us, hunting hounds and falcons bore
And field and forest held in sway?
Embowered queens whose maidens dress
With golden thread their every tress,
Their visages so bright and gay,
the mare and marshal, the hall of feasting:
alas the burnished goblet, welaway
befell the noble ladies, damosels
of yesteryore, the falconers, the hounds,
and in the twinkling of an eye hwær cwōm
the treasure-giver, the loaf’s guardian,
and shepherd of his people?
and in the twinkling of an eye those hawks,
gone into the darkness,
entombed beneath the visor of the night,
so deeply in the past it is almost
as if hēo nō wǣre:
lost in Time.
Their commonwealth is ploughed beneath our shire:
Enamourings, and throes, and sepulture
Of mortal tribes, begotten, mated, buried
Immemorial millennia in this
That smiles its dimpled zone across the hips
Of Albion, the Summer-Country’s vales;
And above their limbs harvest tilth, the staple
Grain, now quickens in eared array: and whispers
In zephyr susurrating through the math
Of fields which surge and plume as waves of seas
Penumbral with the voyaging of clouds;
Dishevelling the meadowed sward of herb
And cresses, wort and dock, to puff aloft
The thistledown of dandelion clocks.
RIDGEWAY II: HENGE (AVEBURY)
An Experiment in Cyclolithics
Astounded to gnomes,
the stone dancers gnomon: dial diurnal,
shudder off shadows, drilling an index
taciturn athwart lips lapped unsealed
by solstice and equinoxes: inexorable
avenue, introit of hermed tumulus,
catacomb, and tump.
And as years yore the decades decay.
Centuries descend from the millennial
mill, the quern that grinds terms upon its axle,
burying the barrows.
The grey wethers
weather. The moors, wither. ‘Whither?’ the wind
Motherly the moon measures out
Her monthlies. Star-cycles circuit. Suns’ limb
dawns, meridians: westering, dwindles.
Obelisks obnubilate; obliviate.
Rains runnel sarsen. Around them wind oghams.
Copyright © Rahul Gupta 2017
Rahul Gupta holds a PhD in English, for a thesis concerning medieval and modernist English prosody, from the University of York. He has given a number of recitals, including at the Barbican Library and at academic conferences, and has published verse in such periodicals as Agenda, Acumen, Equinox and Long Poem Magazine.