Chanctonbury Ring


All at once the wine-gold summer's day
Was gone in sifting sediments of light,
A drift of scents, a red and level ray,
A rising moon of copper turning white.

As though at play, the see-saw moon and sun
Performed around us. We collected wood,
And out of the hill-top trees I came alone
Onto the sunlit side, where, as I stood

Almost I think in prayer for so much beauty
Reaped in one swathe of light, five yards away
A rabbit sat, so still it seemed my duty
To keep silent while he worshipped in his way.

On forepaws he performed his orisons;
I stood behind and saw the comic side,
There seeming to be no comparisons
Permitted (was that sapience, or pride?),

Until the light that hung among the leaves
And trembled like an aged Papal hand
Held over us to consecrate our lives
As one, drew down the darkness like a blind.


That night the moon flew far above the world,
The beeches tumbling in the rooky dark
And talking, talking, loosening my hold
On sleep, as though I slept aboard an Ark

Swept on black waters depthless as that night,
While under the spittled scud far shrouded ships
Cried out impossibly for mates, disconsolate.
A keening more articulate than lips

Can emulate was flooding time with voices,
Voices without form to limit meaning.
Not the utmost pitch of human passion pierces
Human pride so deeply as that keening.

By what wild shores and sheltered bays of birth
Had I been blown, bereft, by madcap Time
When, wrecked on the sunken coral of his grief,
To the harbour of my father's loins I listed home?


Day began yellow after mist, and citrus-sharp.
The liquid wind sent a ripple of hills
Ebbing down distance. Scarp occluding scarp
The Downs knelt green-gowned at the altar rail

Of dawn . . . The dawn of day; the dawn of time -
The superb fact unaccountable as ever.
No rival theories vie. Delirium
Alone seems adequate when being clever

Doesn't (oh how that flippant paradox
Grallochs the very vitals sub aeternis
When fingers of first light release the locks
And day breaks open slowly like a furnace!)


We step from the past, vacate a hole that fills,
And followed by an absence when we leave
Inform the vacancy of now, until
We're pitched into the nothing of the grave,

And that is all: Time, every drop,
We drink in our communion with the day's
Departure, drain the sacramental cup
For time's first fruit - the moment - as it grows.

To catch time is to watch your mirrored face
Whose eyes are always staring back at you -
You never see yourself avert your gaze
Nor ever seem to do what you don't do.

It's not the mere mystery that mystifies,
The miracle or science of the thing,
But the arbitrary streak that underlies,
The impertinent way the world keeps happening.


A rabbit may wax metaphysical,
Or songthrush speculate; if pigeons brood
A cat might stalk the import of it all
By moonlight; and a fox we say is shrewd;

But what we so concede is a subtraction,
The added negative that makes us men.
Our moments of bedazzled stupefaction,
Are truer far, and find us back again

Where we began, before the mirror-world.
Like still-born foals reborn into still birth
We glimpse Elysian fields of emerald
Eternal light with every drop to earth.