poetry diary

I rhyme to see myself, to set the darkness echoing. (Seamus Heaney, from Personal Helicon)

Category: celtic

The last stand

If now be the time, then let them come.

I see one among countless leaves falling; the serrated edge
and yellowing veins against the green.
I feel the tips of grass stems catch the leaf’s damp surface
and hold it, in the autumn light, above the hidden ground.

That same light on their spears, glinting and beautiful; precise,
and honed by craftsmen; strangers like me.
I imagine one among many, held up to the light – admired by the blacksmith
and his daughter; his life’s work, and love,

I think of my children, at home, the lives they’ll live still,
laughing in the sun, which will rise again.
I think of leaves and spears and people, and the sun.

The buckle on my neighbour’s belt, dull iron across worn leather;
much used, and moving gently with his breath;
condensing in the air.

That buckle will endure.

Mist covers the valley, and their spears dissolve.
The leaves fall more slowly now.

If now be the time, then let them come.
If this be the place, then let me stand.
For now time stops,
and here I am.


Running a small engineering business in England in 2012 is not quite the same as standing with Harold against the Normans in 1066, but sometimes it feels like it. Today was such a day.

Posted at Poets United.


Did they wonder, like me, I thought,
at the chiselled avenues of light between the trees
converging on their fields,
and plant these stones in awe
as neolithic poetry?

Or are these rows a show of power
to catch and hold the sun;
weaving patterns from her rays
as only master craftsmen can?

Or was it fear?
Unyielding ancestors, screaming in their heads;
guilty memories made granite flesh,
and forced at last to rest.

Today I touch the stones, warm in the sun,
and shiver.
Drawing my words and thoughts they reach through time,
silent as a neolithic clock,
and almost art, yet unstopped.


I have spent the last fortnight among the menhirs and dolmens of the 6000 year old landscape around Carnac in Brittany.

Cecile Corbel in Concert – Poul Fetan 10 August 2012

Through a darkening sky
the harp draws each star, gently,
as an opening heart.


This is a haiku prompted by a magical evening spent listening to Celtic harpist Cecile Corbel perform in the open air on a still evening on a hillside in Brittany, France. The venue was a restored village from the 19th century, Poul Fetan.

I went with my two teenage children, and having started with a clear blue sky, afterwards the sky was full of more stars than I’d ever seen (and completely clear of clouds) – we followed a mysterious line of lanterns through some woods to the next field, and it was full of astronomers with telescopes: we looked at the stars and saw galaxies and nebulas as never before. Wonderful.

My French is not very confident, but I’ve also had a go at translating my haiku while still in holiday mode:

Par le ciel qui s’assombrit,
la harpe attire chaque étoile doucement;
comme un coeur qu’ouvre.

Caer Caradoc

Like a grain of sand I cross your banks,
borne on Roman time and tides, too late
to stand and fight, with you, for life.

My feet scour and stir the earth you threw
upon this hill in vain; once proud
projection of your power, erect
(I imagine, at least) but now
soft and conquered, smooth mounds suckling sheep;
slopes made romantic by imagined pasts and feet.
A woman it was, I hear, who did for you at last.

Like a grain of sand I cross your banks,
and shape your fort, and feel your hands;
two thousand years have passed and still
I dream with you.


Caer Caradoc is a hill fort and also a hill in Shropshire, in the West of England. It is named after Caractacus, the Celtic chief who resisted the Roman invasion of Britain in the first century AD, and is supposedly the site of his last stand against the Roman legions. He was betrayed by a neighbouring Queen and taken in captivity to Rome. You can read more about him on Wikipedia and about the hill fort here: Caer Caradoc.

I like castles and fortresses and this poem is one of a series which I haven’t added to for a while. I’ve climbed Caer Caradoc many times, and it is a good place for a last stand.