Wednesday, 2 October 2013

On BELAS KNAP I sat down...

An old one, but a recent visit prompted me to post it here:

Belas Knap (GLO1) lies on a gentle hill-slope overlooking a steep-sided river valley. The name is derived from the Old English words bel meaning a beacon and cnaepp meaning a hilltop. It displays many of the classic features of Cotswold-Severn long barrows and is often seen as a type-site for examples with lateral chambers.  The wedge-shaped mound is over 50m long and stands nearly 4m high; it is orientated north-south. At the north end is a deep forecourt between two rounded horns, and in the back of the forecourt is an H-shaped setting of stones, perhaps the remains of a portal dolmen. The ditch that seems to define the sides of the mound is a product of reconstruction work during the 1930s; the bank of soil and stones outside the ditch is in fact material that has weathered off the top of the mound.
Timothy Darvill. Long Barrows of the Cotswolds (2004:262) 

On Belas Knap I sat down
For I felt in need of some sacred ground
And I had no strength in my ragged soul
And for me the nonetide bell had ceased to toll
And so to Belas Knap by the withered tree
I hunted him who haunted me.

For I’d lost my way in Bethlehem
And I’d bartered my name to Rome
And the body of god was a dry wafer crisp
And my soul felt as cold as stone

And the book in my hand had lost is voice
And the altar candles their flame
And the blood had turned to cheap red wine
And the world had lost your name.

Then I heard it in the earth
And I felt it in the air
And the crowing of the birds above
An older voice laid bare.

The spilling of a wilder blood
The beat of shaman drum
The smell of earth and woody moss
The cycles of the sun.

And its…
1 for the man who counts our bones
2 for the woman who carries our souls
3 for the man who reads the stones
4 for the woman who flies with the crows
5 for the man who rides the moon
6 for the man who catches the dream  

And the primal drum beat pulses
Through the veins of every leaf
As before the Christ and devil danced
To the frozen music of our creeds
The Alpha and Omega busts out of Palestine
No longer held by cultures
No longer bound by time.

And so to Belas Knap I came
And kindled there a dying flame
And as I sat on ancient ground
It was an older God I found
As in the shade of a withered tree
I hunted him who haunted me.


  1. It's good to see you are back and writing again!!! :) Your prose is very moving and deep!!

    Your poem here reminds me "The Wanderer," a medieval poem about a man who wanders about seeking solace all the while questioning everything. And it is a link between the pagan and Christian worlds.

    1. Thank you Kelly. I read 'The Wanderer' a number of years ago and have been haunted by its use of the penetrating cold, but couldn't remember where it was from. Your mentioning of it prompted me to some Googling and lo there it is!! That's wonderful, thank you so much.
      I agree, like Beowulf it comes at a time when there is that intersection between pagan and Christian worlds and the interweaving of motifs. Ancient and yet so very 'modern'!

  2. Sometimes I fear that I make too easy an accomodation with the Christian creeds though I know why I say, yes, to them. Stay on your wild journey, my friend. I know you will find what you truly seek.

    1. The fact that you know why you you say 'yes' to them is one of the reasons why I treasure our friendship so deeply, Stephen.

  3. I remember this!

    then and now and all that's inbetween.

    "..And as I sat on ancient ground
    It was an older God I found
    As in the shade of a withered tree
    I hunted him who haunted me."

    1. Yes, it was a while ago - it's funny how, over time, some things can change so dramatically while other things can change so little.
      Friendship is measured by the 'inbetweens' - that you can remember them, means such a lot :)

  4. A poem that reached my bones and touched my soul. I think I am in need of such a pilgrimage so I can return refreshed and replenished.


For your voice is important... and words that are shared grow wings.