Down in the dyke of the ancient folk,
Hard by the rampart crowned with oak,
My foot sank deep in the drift of years,
Of buried battles and hates and fears,
And fights none reckons who lost or won
Long won, long lost in the time that’s done.
Deep in the dyke of the ancient folk,
Something stirred in its sleep and woke,
Something rose to the light of day,
Something followed me all the way,
Something dogged me that came not nigh,
Loitered and hastened and stopped as I.
Out of the dyke I cam at last,
Where the drift lay high of the ages past,
From the following thing that lingered there
To the sun and the sky and the lark in air,
And the wind in the bents that, strong and fleet,
Ran like flame on its unseen feet . . .
Deep in the dyke of the ancient men
Something turned to its rest again.
Smith writes of her visit to Offa’s Dyke. She talks of its history, ‘of buried battles and hates and fears’. She feels that she’s being followed by a being from the dyke’s history ‘Deep in the dyke of the ancient folk,/Something stirred in its sleep and woke,/Something rose to the light of day,/Something followed me all the way.’
Smith leaves the dyke, leaving the being behind, but its clear that Smith feels the history of battles at the dyke still have a presence there in the current day.
Denny Bradbury also wonders about previous battles on her visit to the dyke. She asks a tree there about the past. ‘What mighty larch, how see you?/What might tree is your view.’
She talks of how the tree is there permanently despite the battles, almost looking over them, like an all-seeing being. ‘You’ve seen all the battles and fights,/the comings and goings at night,/you stand with your leaves ever knowing,/make no judgment although it’s your right.’
Bradbury looks at the importance of the tree in our world filled with a history of violence and destruction. ‘do you know how we value and need you,/as we dance with decay and renew.’
What mighty larch, how see you?
What mighty tree is your view?
The world turns as ever it did,
is there ever anything new?
You’ve seen all the battles and fights,
the comings and goings at night,
you stand with your leaves ever knowing,
make no judgement although its your right.
What mighty larch with such wisdom,
do you stand there determined and still;
seeing the world as your kingdom
on this wonderful, whispering hill.
The darkness beneath your fine branches
hides creatures and memories galore;
with such wondrous arms are the tranches
of history sown in death’s awesome fall.
Each sunrise shows how you are standing
so quiet, so proud with your view;
do you know how we value and need you,
as we dance with decay and renew.