Chanctonbury Ring

 

Chanctonbury Ring 

  They built this place long ago,

 Carved it from the chalk-lands

 With antler pick and leather bucket

And waited with anxious eyes

For the enemy to come

 By dawn or dusk’s dim light,

Crawling up the bare hills.

They fled this place so long ago

 I cannot feel them here at all,

Cannot hear the clash of weapons

 Nor smell the sweat and dung.

But then, I am a stranger, Child of the wild raiders Who crossed the cold seas

To gain this fertile pleasant land.

I am not of this tribe;

The bones of my fathers

Do not mingle with the chalk,

 Bone white and crumbling

As an ancient cloven skull.

This rolling green corner

Of this much-invaded land

Holds no graves of my kin.

 I must go further and deeper

To find my own bloodline,

Touch the soil my ancestors tilled.

 And yet, while this land seems

 To stand still, we ebb and flow

 Like some slow sea, washing

The very shores of time:

The long march north from African plains,

The trek back across mountains of ice

 As the cold closed the lands,

 And the slow migration north again

 As glaciers shrank like salted snails,

 These journeys, these tides of people,

From the dark-skinned early tribes

To the pale ones of northern lands,

Tell me that even here,

Where I seem a stranger,

This is my land, my tribe.

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