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For many of us wandering on moors and hills we have our own private moments as we contemplate the stones, barrows and circles, they are tantalisingly unrevealing of their past history, so that we are forced to make some sort of response to them. For others it is the vast skyscape and the loneliness of the landscape that surrounds these enigmatic monuments that strikes a chord. We are reminded that death is part of the pattern for us all. The Edward Thomas passage below is a hymn to the beauty of the natural world and to a history that has wound itself round the stones in myths trying to capture the elusive truth of it all.
“On the barrows themselves, which are either isolated or in a group of two or three, grow thistle and gorse. They command mile upon mile of cliff and sea. In their sight the great headland run out to sea and sinking seem to rise again a few miles out in a sheer island, so that they resemble couchant beasts with backs under water but heads and haunches upreared….
…and near by the blue sea, slightly roughened as by a harrow, sleeps calm but foamy among cinder-covered isles; donkeys graze on the brown turf, larks rise and fall and curlews go by; a cuckoo sings amongst the deserted mines. But the barrows are most noble on the high heather and grass. The lonely turf is full of lilace scabious flowers and crimson knapweed among the solid mounds of gorse. The brown-green-grey of the dry summer grass reveals myriads of the flowers of the thyme, of stonecrop yellow and white, of pearly eyebright, of golden lady’s fingers, and the white or grey clover with its purest and earthest of all fragrances.
On every hand lies cromlech, camp, circle, hut and tumulus of the unwritten years. They are confused and and mingled with the natural litter of a barren land. It is a silent Bedlam of history, a senseless cemetery or museum, amidst which we walk as animals must do when they see those valleys full of skeletons where their kind are said to go punctually to die. There are enough of the dead; they outnumber the living, and there those trite truths burst with life and drum upon the typpanum with ambiguous fatal voices. At the end of this many barrowed moor, yet not in it, there is a solitary circle of grey stones, where the cry of the past is less vociferous, less bewildering, than on the moor itself, but more intense. Nineteen tall, grey stones stand round a taller, pointed one that is heavily bowed, amidst long grass and bracken and furze. A track passes close by, but does not enter the circle; the grass is unbent except by the weight of its bloom. It bears a name that connects it with the assembling and rivalry of the bards of Britain. Here, under the sky, they met, leaning upon the stones, tall fair men of peace, but half warriors, whose songs could change ploughshares into sword. Here they met, and the growth of the grass, the perfection of the stones (except that one stoops as with age), and the silence, suggest that since the last bard left it, in robe of blue or white or green – the colours of sky and cloud and grass upon this fair day – the circle has been unmolested, and the law obeyed which forbade any but a bard to enter it… And the inscription on the chair of the bards of Beisgawen was “nothing is that is not for ever and ever” – these things and the blue sky, the white, cloudy hall of the sun, and the green bough and grass, hallowed the ancient stones, and clearer than any vision of tall bards in the morning of the world was the tranquil delight of being thus ‘ teased out of time’ in the presence of this ancientness….
Taken from the South Country by Edward Thomas
The Stone circle of Beisgawen is in actual fact Boscawen -Un