Bernie Bell has sent in this poem to The Orkney News – thinking of all the diggers working on Orkney’s many archaeological sites over the summer.
“I thought of a poem which very much put me in mind of the archaeological discoveries here, or anywhere for that matter. The bones, possessions and lives of folk, long gone, lying just below today’s life and landscape – then un-earthed either by natural forces, or the hand of man. In some cases, even footprints of ancient folk, caught in the mud of their time.
“Sometimes, it’s heart-touching, when something very personal is found on an archaeological dig site – a direct link to those long-passed folk.
“This was written by someone in New Zealand, but we all have our history, which is the history of….us all!”
There, beneath a portcullis of rain
lie the bones of time-rent men and women.
They lie awash in the slush
that saddened and sometimes defeated them.
Scabby hedges cling to the slopes
of hills yoked by sky.
Here the whole range of earth’s colours
sprawl on paddock, stone wall and crumpled sea.
Nothing is left untouched by sparse sunlight,
slanting rain, fists of wind punching
the ribs of the land. Here, under tough grasses
and the crust of sheep and cattle tracks
crumble the fondest dreams and prophecies.
No one came who stayed to conquer, no one came
who was not beaten down
or turned away for another time.