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Purbeck - The Enduring Isle

Cast adrift from city sirens, an island
A sculpture shaped from limestone, clay and shale
Flower’s Barrow, Ballard Down, Old Harry Rocks -
Its steep backbone, the chalk spine of a whale

Brandy Bay, Tyneham Wood, land ploughed and
Framed by wind-wracked cliff, shifting sand and
Crowned with a castle’s shattered silhouette -
Albion’s decayed, proudly ruined teeth

Veiled in ghostly sea-fog on wet dog days
Bathed in star-pav’d silent midnight skies
Where memories are cloaked in mason’s dust
Flint-hard history seen through quarrymen’s eyes

Whose muscle, grit and sweat built cathedrals
With the brittle chime of biddle and wedge
Cutting slabs from salt-sprayed, sepulchred caves
Tilly Whim, Winspit, Seacombe, Dancing Ledge

Thirst slaked clean by Square and Compass cider
As barrels clatter on the flagstone floor
Wood-panelled walls ingrained with song and story
Laughter echoing voices gone before

Mecca for apostles of the fossil
Trigonia and golden ammonite
The iguanodon’s old coastal footpath
Two hundred million sun-cracked years bleached

Angels slumber in the blue marble beds
With hammer on chisel they awaken
Ironbound beauty slowly brought to light
Engraved deep in a past long forsaken

Now weekend cottages are haunted homes
And the gilded tourist shilling fills tills
Yet this is not England set in aspic
Still life draws breath from these ancient green hills

Timeless landscape for unhurried footsteps
A carving hewn from prehistoric bone
A deep seam of peace, space to think and dream
A living work of art, a precious stone

copyright elvis mcgonagall
for bbc1 “the one show”, 2014

(A video of this poem can be seen here)

elvis mcgonagall

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