Saturday, 5 July 2008

old enchantments



More poetry of place. My formative years (well, some of my formative years. Do we ever stop having formative years?) were spent in South East Wales, and that is the landscape of home in my imagination. This poem by T S Eliot is a touchstone for me

USK

Do not suddenly break the branch, or

Hope to find
The white hart behind the white well.
Glance aside, not for lance, do not spell
Old enchantments. Let them sleep.
"Gently dip, but not too deep,"
Lift your eyes
Where the roads dip and where the roads rise
Seek only there
Where the grey light meets the green air
The hermit's chapel, the pilgrims's prayer.

...so when I read, a few years ago, that someone had come up with a real well in the Usk valley, close to a pub called the White Hart, I thought I should go take a look.


Finally got round to it.

Here's the White Hart in Llangybi



...and here is the well of St Cybi, below the churchyard and recently restored. Note the old whitewash on the inner wall, making it indeed a 'white well'. And, in this picture, the White Hart is indeed behind the well. So, er, ta-dah!


So now I've got some real landscape in my head which is jostling for space with the imagined landscape, in which white harts, hermits and pilgrims have stepped from a mediaeval tapestry and are hoving in the woods. (Do pilgrims and hermits hove, or is that just knights errant? -well, you know...).

Well, I suppose Mr Eliot did sound a note of warning when he advised against seeking old enchantments.