On Old Winchester Hill
High on Old Winchester Hill, I wonder:
Did Victorian archaeologists miss the point
With their methodical measuring tapes,
Their neat white note-cards & their tapping trowels;
Their careful record books & counted shards
Of flint & iron & pottery?
The hill is healed now of all diggings: hollows & barrows
Softened by falling rain, by grass & honeyed clover,
By golden gorse & trefoil; by thistledown & scabious;
By poppies’ red splash & purple coils of rampant vetch.
Now rock-hard ramparts, humps & clumps of earth are blurred:
Jumbled by time & tempest, roots & rabbits.
What’s left to mark the memory of ancient ancestors
And long-lost clans?—those who lived before the builders of Stonehenge,
Before Romans drove their roads in dead straight lines & marched to ruin,
Before Arthur cantered out with wandering knights
Or Alfred was enthroned in royal halls at Winchester—
What’s left to mark their memory?
Only this: a gentle wooden seat to rest upon with you,
To stare back down & through the ages;
And this: our love shall last, not overlords.
We carry seeds of sweetness in our plantings
As surely as feathered corn-cockles flare
Open for another summer & another—
As surely as the children born to us
Will walk upon this hilltop once:
Their eyes fixed on the azure glory of the sky,
Their feet sunk deep in kingly blue of cornflowers
And golden hoards of seed-heads where today we go
In tracks of those who settled here six thousand years ago.
© Lizzie Ballagher