Thursday, 14 May 2015

still here

hare and the madrigal

If it feels like an age since I last wrote, that's because it has been. Life has not been easy of late, a harrowing winter and a few body blows with the arrival of the apple-blossom too. Grief to chew on. Just didn't feel like putting pen to paper. But time is a flying arrow, and the season is in its turning, so i'm glad to offer a little something today. Something on a very holy animal for me, the Hare, and some of the Lorca i've been slowly translating in the Shepherds Hut with my spanish speaking, Cante Hondo guitar playing co-worker to all divine things, Stephan Harding. More sooner, promise.


Who is queen of Dartmoor?
how does the salmon or white doe fare?
Who is the one to ask for?
lay your gifts at solitary hare

I’d seen her first from the window of the shepherds hut. And then sometimes a glimpse when I was outside throwing coffee granules onto the soil.

Late autumn, a sleeting rain, and, bold as brass, hare in the long grasses. Bounding, darting, lying low like a small earthy tump. Hairy, toothy, wet backed, utterly wild. An emissary from an entirely different century, or even outside time altogether.

By spring there’d be rabbits on the grass, and she’d be gone. But, for a little while, hare was in my life. Come March I’d search but wouldn’t spot those long ears in the scrub, those great jugs of sound. But I remember her jubilance in the rain. I remember.

It’s a mild afternoon, the very first snow drops flower by my boots, the sun like a dulled bronze coin behind a slightly glowing flank of grey cloud. I enter the wood behind the hut. I bow under the first gateway of holly, then oak, then into that always unexpected grove of redwood trees. I never quite get used to them.

Today the wind is like foam breakers crashing on a distant beach. Immense, protracted roars up in those high branches. I stretch my neck to see if there’s any fishing boats wrapped round the timber. I pass a smearing of bloody magpie feathers enmeshed in wire fencing. There’s been a scrap of some kind. Magpie did not dust itself off. Crow continues to drill-the-road overhead, and underneath there are little clusters of songbirds.

Today I love hare like I love pirate ships, old maps of Scotland, and pipe smoke in autumn. A kind of love without thought. Just a great, affectionate lurch of the body towards what claims it. So in the absence of my teacher, I give praise to air that it may carry these words to those vast, twitching ears.


Taken into battle and used as divination by Queen Boudicca. Erupting from the folds of her skirt, the way it leapt gave sacred information to the Iceni. Takes a woman to understand hares powers: as long as you expect it to behave as a swaggering hero you will be disappointed. But let it be its nature and you are in the presence of wisdom.


A body suffused unusually and liberally with blood. A royal dish. The people of the fields prefer rabbit to the bucket-blood, dark flesh and strong stink of its meat. For the rich this can all be negotiated by servants in far away kitchens. Then, magically, it becomes highly desirable. But Robert Burton in Anatomy of Melancholy warns against it: ‘Hare is a black meat, melancholy and hard of digestion; it breeds Incubus often eaten, and causeth fearful dreams…’


The leaper. The hare-brained swift who’s time is spring: of buddings,
and sudden emerging’s, there’s no plod with this one. The Algonquin have knowledge for us moor-people: they say hare is Michabo, Great Hare, maker of sun, moon, earth. Hare is ruler of the winds: the reason Dartmoor is so filled with chills is because of the daily coming and goings of tribute laid at hares feet.

Hare - here are some of your far-away names.

Lord Hare, Lord of the Day, Manabozho, Hiawatha, Manabosho, Manabush, Manibozho, Nanabozho, Winabozho, Great Hare, Minabozha, Nanaboojoo, Nanabush, Abnaki Gluskap, Iroquois Ioskeha, Menominee Manabush, Montagnais Messou, Messibizi, Messon, Missabos, Missiwabun, Wan

Hare - here are some of your close-up names. These I whisper.

Old Turpin, Puss, Light Bringer, Hidden Quiet of the Byre, Long-Flank, Tremble Heart, The One They Track With Silver, The Way-Beater, The Stag of the Stubble, Get-Up-Quickly, Flincher, Dew-Beater, The Furze-Cat, Lurker, Squatter in the Hedge, The Swift As Wind, Shagger, The Fellow in the Rain, Wide-Eyed One That Lurks in Broom, The Low Creeper, One Who Turns To The Hills

and a tribute to the coming summer:

Summer Madrigal
August 1920 (Vega de Zujaira)

Estrella, you gypsy.
Crush your
red mouth
onto mine.
Below noon’s
bright gold,
i will bite that apple.

In the greeness of
the olive grove,
high on the hill,
there is an ancient
Moorish tower.
The colour of your
peasant flesh
your peasant flesh,
which tastes of honey
and the dawn.

You offer me in
your sunburnt body
divine food which
flowers the river bed,
and gives stars to the wind.

Brown light -
why do you give me
full of love,
your lillied womanhood,
and the murmur of your breasts?

Is it because of my body
full of sadness?
(oh my fumbling steps)
Did my song withered life
touch you with pity?

How can it be that
you have settled for my laments
over the sweaty thighs
of a peasant Saint Christopher,
handsome, and slow in love?

You are with me, Diana of pleasure.
You are Goddess of the Forest.
Your kisses smell of wheat
parched in summer sun.

Confound my eyes
with your song,
let your hair fall down
solemn, like a
cloak of shadow
on the meadow.

From your bloodied mouth,
Spit me a sky of love,
a dark star of pain
in its fleshy depths.

My Andalucian horse -
my Pegasus,
is captured by your eyes;
his flight will be of desolation
when their light dims.

I know you never loved me.
But i loved you -
for your
serious gaze,
like the lark loves a new day
if only for the dew.

Estrella, you gypsy.
Bite your red mouth to mine.
Under a clear noon
let me ravage
that apple.

copyright Shaw (and Harding) 2015