Beneath the burial mound of Arthur’s Stone,
With its cleft, 25-tonne table,
Situated on the ridge line of a hill,
Overlooking both the Wye Valley and the Golden Valley,
Lie the ancient, undisturbed remains of a warrior.
This much you glean, via the information provided
By English Heritage, in the shape of an information board,
Adjacent to the monument.
Almost imperceptibly, as you study the polythene-coated fact sheet,
The air becomes electric, the vibrations increase,
And the bones beneath begin to twitch.
An unearthly, deep buzz echoes round,
And through, the Hereford hillsides,
As the skeletal form of a man takes shape.
For an instant, but only an instant,
The entire chamber is lit by an eye-blinding gash of light,
A rip of alchemical illumination,
Which leaves the surrounding countryside
Pulsating with an eerie kind of energy.
As it slowly subsides, and the air clears,
The site reveals a singular addition
To its split capstone, its weathered passage-ways,
Its south-facing Quoit Stone, its manicured grassy plinth,
In the sentinel figure of a naked, hairy, paint-daubed giant:
Human, male, fully-formed and living.
A resurrection of sorts, a transmogrification
Of mineralized collagen fibrils
Into flesh, blood, muscles, organs and mind.
He stands stock still, eyes closed,
As if in profound meditative contemplation,
Or catatonic inertia,
And then, shockingly, suddenly, he breathes deep,
Inhaling of the air like an out-of-his-depth diver,
Desperate, following the physical anguish of decompression.
As he exhales, his eyes open,
And, as they do, the prefrontal cortex,
Inferior frontal gyrus, temporal lobe,
Parietal lobe and limbic system jolt to life.
And this is what he thinks:
I was dying.
A sacrifice to the gods.
For the good of the crops.
A gift of their finest.
The warrior chief.
The dark hills still dark.
The rolling fields still rolling.
As if veiled over.
Scritch skirl skreek…
Why back now?
Did I die wrong –
Thus all wrong?
Am I to blame?
Is the fault mine?
Out of kilter.
Out of skew.
Out of time.
And I’m afraid.
Pity him, for he knows nothing of toxic air pollutants,
Via cars, trucks, buses, factories, refineries, power plants;
Of noise pollutants, via electronic gadgets, sound systems,
Televisions, mobile phones, manufacturing industries, aeroplanes;
Of water pollutants, via fertilizers, sewage,
Biodegradable waste, non-biodegradable waste.
Pity him, for he understands nothing of sulphur oxides,
Of nitrogen oxides, of carbon monoxide, of benzene,
Toluene, xylene, butadiene, particulate matter,
Anthropogenic aerosols, persistent free radicals,
Toxic metals, chlorofluorocarbons, ammonia, radioactive fallout.
Pity him, for he is dying all over again,
But not as before.
Poisoned by our filthy air, our incessant racket,
Our secret pathogens, our blind stupidity.
He, who accepted his fate willingly, for the common good,
Little realising his gods were no more substantial than our own,
Stands shivering in the pale light:
Eyes bleeding, mouth cracked, tongue swollen, heart breaking.
Our own tribal chiefs know nothing of this man’s weighty authority,
Professing a form of diminished responsibility in the face
Of disasters entirely of their own making.
Diminished creatures, with diminished minds and diminished souls.
Instinctively, this regenerated giant understands everything,
And wants no part of it.
He raises his head to the heavens, as tears scorch his cheeks,
And cries out, wails, howls…
Enough of this.
To the familiar silence.
As a breeze picks up, and the sky darkens,
This substantial man, this warrior, begins to disappear,
As a figment fading in the mist.
Little by little, fainter, yet fainter still,
He vanishes from sight, till nothing, not a trace.
All as it was. As it is.
And you, who witnessed this,
Did you imagine it, as you stood by the stones?
Or was it something else?
Did the spirit of this place grip you, and move you,
To see beyond seeing?
To sense beyond sensing?
To feel beyond feeling?
To know beyond knowing?
Or was it, merely, a disturbance of the mind?
The question hangs in the humid air like a poised axe,
And it will haunt all your futures.
Dafydd ap Pedr