Sunday, 27 March 2011

The truth of place lies in hearts not ruins

When Hugh de Morville, Norman baron built this little keep up in the hills of Westmoreland, it was forever. The King had granted him the lands and he built his home among those hills better to control and direct what went on. Yet today, having passed from de Morville hands - perhaps as punishment from the fates for his part in slaying Thomas a Beckett - the keep stands ruined, unused, guarded by just a gate plus a few sheep.

It was not for ever but for a blink in human history that this great man presided over his lands and his men. Today new great men preside - governing, ruling, directing, controlling. And like great men of the past they will be forgotten, their works will wear, ruin and decay - recalled only by travellers wondering why such a structure was built in such a place.

Hugh was Norman, spoke French and sat atop a pyramid of power in Westmoreland. But today, the local people don't speak French and aren't Norman. The language of England prevails, corrupted here by celtic words and places - nearby Pen-y-ghent, one of Yorkshire's three peaks proclaims this heritage. To understand a place we have to look behind the buildings, beyond the architecture - we must look to the people and into their hearts. There we will find the truth of place - as Houseman wrote:

In my own shire, if I was sad,
Homely comforters I had:
The earth, because my heart was sore,
Sorrowed for the son she bore;
And standing hills, long to remain,
Shared their short-lived comrade's pain.
And bound for the same bourn as I,
On every road I wandered by,
Trod beside me, close and dear,
The beautiful and death-struck year:
Whether in the woodland brown
I heard the beechnut rustle down,
And saw the purple crocus pale
Flower about the autumn dale;
Or littering far the fields of May
Lady-smocks a-bleaching lay,
And like a skylit water stood
The bluebells in the azured wood.

1 comment:

Frances Coppola said...

and Ozymandias, of course