Archive > Vol. X no. Z
The Damosel is not dead, but sleepeth
Low ruin, enclosed in a copse of planted Georgian trees; shorn common drilled with wheat and rape, where ploughshares grind on sunken ashlar, shear skulls and expose femurs. Shattered dynasties glint from tilth, Latimer, Mowbray, Foliot, Zouch, the arms of Gaunt, Black Prince and York. What brought these High and Mighty here, to the chapel below the limestone crag, twixt Hangmanstone and Ludwell Hill, overlooking the ings to Dearne? St. Ellen’s spring, the gushing omphalos of this flood-gouged scarp since the pre-arboreal Holocene; back-filled now and drained to ditch, her violated temenos strewn with fieldwalked votive scatter; flakes of Mesolithic chert, burnt Beaker flint and Bronze Age spearheads, Samian, Gray ware, Coalfield White. Here ceorls processed in garlands to the beat of beer and drum, and under quick at Lady’s cave made Mass, destroyed their silver; broke war-blades out of use. Subinfeudate chaos of tenure: Cresacre of Newmarche of Warenne of the King — Henry, the Bastard’s fourth-born, in whose reign rose the altar on another usurper’s bones: the chapel of St. Helen, to the glory of bishop and king. But the locals were prone to dropping their aitches, and though her earth was torn from them, onoured their Lady, with Masses and branches of hard-berried quick, trespass, coursing, Actual Bodily Harm … wavy-dissolve from England ’s dreaming to the Coach and Horses car park, St. Peter chiming chuck-out time some disco Saturday night. A couple in their cups, some latter-day Alice and Percy perhaps, giggle the street and moonlit stubbles to bed among bales by the copse off Helen’s Lane: where they woke to freezing dew and wraith-mist, the rose of fingering dawn, ragged apparitions of the chapel’s White Lady, haunting our dreaming from Elicon, Ludwell Hill. Note: “Alice & Percy” Cresacre were Lady & Lord of the Manor of Barnburgh, the setting of this poem, in the early fifteen century.