Day Fifteen – Cerne Abbas
The Ballad of the White Horse of Uffington
On Chalking Day we gather round
Our White Horse on the hill- o.
We’ve brought our hammers and our chalk
Packed in buckets fit to spill-o.
Each seven years we scour our Horse,
We whiten up his shape- o.
His arching neck, his comet-tail,
Legs striding to escape-o.
He breaks the spell that ties him here
Beside the ancient track-o,
Then gallops free across the sky,
The sunrise on his back-o.
To Weland’s Smithy off he flies
To see the metal mage-o,
Where magic’s forged and iron’s wrought
And flames twist in a rage-o.
The Smith will shoe him, light and strong
Then he’ll be on his way-o.
He’ll gallop free across the sky
Till sunset ends the day-o.
We’ve scoured our Horse and made him new
We’ve smashed the chalk and spread -o
We’re tired but happy and we know
He’ll guard us in our beds-o.
He is our Horse upon our hill,
To keep him, our endeavour.
Since ancient times he’s shone for us.
He’ll stay with us forever.
The White Horse of Kilburn
Not calved in chalk hillside
like its southern cousins
by which it was inspired,
but sandstone. An illusion,
though not as you’d think.
Motorists on the A1 were not fooled,
nor passengers in trains to Scotland
and the North. It could have stayed
a grey stallion or beige mare,
but instead must be covered
with limestone from the distant Wolds
from where you can see it
on clear days. The work of a local
businessman and a schoolmaster,
did they imagine how hard
it would be to whitewash or paint,
that it would have to be hidden
in wartime, masked from German bombers?
We walk to its head
not to admire it, but rather the view
from the bench at the top of
the steps, strangely not spoilt
by power station chimneys.
In summer we may
pick bilberries along the way.
There are always gliders,
once a display of birds of prey,
and very often people we know.
-Peter J Donnelly
A Cerne Abbas Giant
Once fully clothed, a cape over my left
arm whose hand carried a head by its hair,
a knobbly cudgel in my right I heft.
Soon my carried head and cape is not there.
And someone carves an erect appendage.
First a stubby thing then made to include
my belly button. I reflect this age.
My chalk refreshed regularly. A prude
I can’t be. Once they hid, tried to get rid
of this added bit. Now all is brightened.
I’m cared for, watched over, weathered, In spit
and shine, folk climb me, perhaps enlightened.
I’m what you make of me, you fetch yourself,
and all you’ve been through, your wealth.
Bios And Links
writes and performs, usually with the TWP (Tees Women Poets) Collective. Her work has been widely published both online and in print, most recently in The Alchemy Spoon, Dreich anthologies, Amethyst Review and Green Ink Poetry. She was also recently Highly Commended in the 2021 YorkMix Poems for Children competition. Her chapbook Watching a Heron with Davey is published by Black Light Engine Room Press. She tweets @Ann CUTHBERT5.
-Peter J Donnelly
lives in York where he works as a hospital secretary. He has been published in various magazines and anthologies. He recently came second in the Ripon Poetry Festival competition.