This is one of the first serious poems I wrote when I started writing again. I wrote it so long ago that I am not really the person I was when I wrote it, and if I wrote it now it would be quite different, but I do remember how hard it was to get the tech-positivity right. It’s about the history of Britain from the ice age to 1996. It’s written from the point of view of the goddess Sovranty, and when I realised I’d done the thing Robert Graves said women poets should do and written from the goddess’s point of view it made me furious. It’s also very very very long, and political, and more than a little weird. Oh, and full of sex.Oh my lovers, oh my children,
are you gone? My arms are empty.
Am I left alone to sorrow,
though you loved me, have you left me?
Don’t you care? You who have panted
urgent love upon my body,
all of you throughout the ages,
listen now and know I need you.
First were you, my nameless people
small and dark, who loved me gentle
careful raised the stones upon me.
Came my Celts in brightest morning,
ah, you spiralled me with loving,
held you close and heard your laughing,
yes, but even at the joining
always felt your tears falling
gentle on my breasts and body.
Then the Romans came and joined you
at my side a while exotic,
but you soon forgot Italia
and you loved me long and tender.
Ah, you promised to defend me,
and you built a wall upon me
and you died for me at Badon
but the Saxons swore to win me.
You so rough but yet so lusty
and your golden hair enclosed me
and your arms were strong about me
though you took me for your pleasure
soon you found you loved me truly
and your shield-wall held the northmen
yet you could not hold at Senlac
so I fell before the Normans.
You were curt and calculating
but you slowly came to love me
stayed in fealty and honour.
You knew all the rights of kingship
all the joy and all the burden
coming forward to embrace me
or to die for me if need be
to encourage and inspire
ranked with ranks who stand firm, heartened
that the king risks chance beside them
freely choosing honour’s service
for the love of land and people.
I was Sovereignty; I loved you,
all the kings and all the people
all who loved me, all who chose me,
all who laid your hands upon me
in your doing well, your striving,
in your making and defending.
And the blood of all was mingled
in the centuries of loving
blood of kings and blood of strangers
if you settled here and loved me,
all who come in love are welcome
and my arms are always open.
So the kings were crowned and took me
and I knew each one my lover
as each farmer was my lover
when you set your plough upon me
and my body spread before you.
And the monks and reeves all knew me
as the millwheels ground unceasing
and the iron crashed at anvil
as the wool was spun and woven
and the poets knew to name me.
I was garlanded with flowers
with the maypole set upon me
and the ever braiding ribbons
and the years went round in circles
with the orchards deep in blossom
then the branch weighed down with apples
and you raised the cup of cider
to the dancing at the maypole
as I nurtured crops and children
growing strong and safe upon me
on my warm and ample body
and you all became my lovers
and the towns and cities prospered.
Grey-blue sea that pounded round me
was your barrier and your highway,
let you reach me, took you from me
was a tide that flowed inside you
that I couldn’t touch or alter
as it crashed upon my headlands
as you smiled through salt-spray’s splashing
and the foaming water lapped me.
You built ships that were my safety
walls of wood and air on water
and the creaking canvas bore you
from my arms that held and harboured.
So your sails spread out and billowed
like a cliff beyond the coastline
where you fought waves of invaders
and you died in fire and water
but they set no foot upon me.
All the beacons flared in warning
or to mark a day of triumph,
fire flickering down my frontiers
as the red flame licked up, leaping
from one beacon to another
from my head to toe defended
with a ring of fire about me.
And the wall of ships stood steady
through the years, when need would call you
and your proud tradition sailed them
far across the open oceans
where the name of duty bore you
acting harshly, loving fairly,
spreading safety in the sea-lanes.
And I watched for your returning,
as your journey’s end, your haven
as the shore you longed to rest on
and I loved you when you touched me
when you slipped into my inlets
but the tide was always flowing
and I took the love you offered
but I didn’t try to own you.
And you squabbled over baubles
or to win me, or to please me,
you were every one my lover
shuddering as you embraced me
and your fighting didn’t matter
till disaster struck at Naseby.
King’s blood on my naked body
I was cowering before you
with the crown held out before me
but you struck it from my fingers
trod it in the mud and mire
then you melted it to money
and you turned your back upon me
for you didn’t care to touch me
and I couldn’t understand you;
spending sovereignty as coinage
building what is dead without me
with no spirit there within it
for you never came to love me.
But enough of you were faithful
and the years wound on regardless
there was always joy and loving
but now sunlight had a shadow
and my trust no more unquestioned
for those few would always spurn me
and would set cold coin above me
and would live in lies and shadows.
Then you spread the world before me,
though I didn’t really want it
as I wanted to embrace you,
but I let you leave to conquer
giving other lands their lovers
even as you swore remembrance
in your serried ranks of service.
And you fought for me and held me
flying high above my pastures
though you fell, and burned in falling,
and I hugged you to my bosom
all so young, and all so weary
laughing at the doom about you
and my children’s children hastening
home to hold me, rallied round me.
Oh my children, lovers, heroes,
fair you won the war above me
saved my shores against invasion
loving me you held the shield-wall
built of flimsy wings and bodies
while you watched me lie below you
in the slowly growing shadow.
But now where are all my lovers?
I am covered up with houses
and the shadow falls between us
you live here but never touch me
and your poisons belch upon me
and you are not caring for me,
you are grey and cold and busy
with no time to really see me
though you peck my cheek in passing,
give the name of love to torment;
think that love of land is mouthing
ugly songs at forced remembrance
waving scraps of cloth so feebly
making mock of fallen banners.
Howsoever bright the pennons
only heart’s truth counts in loving
and your lance is cracked and broken
and your heart is full of hatred
full of cowardice and terror,
in my name you harm my children
and your deeds are weighed and wanting.
And you count cold coin as treasure
while the real treasures wither,
in the only scale that matters
for the living world you breathe in,
you despoil them and destroy them
or you steal them from your children
in your thoughtless search for profit
which is profitless without me.
Cities, land and generations
need to breathe and grow together
all you do in love will prosper,
what is done with me and through me
taking thought beyond tomorrow
that will thrive and grow and flourish.
But you spit on me and scorn me
and you spurn your own true making
as you curse your own creation.
You can not escape from living
by the hand-deeds cunning-crafted;
dead stone is food for nothing
but the iron ploughshare feeds you
and the iron axe has housed you
and the old and faded metal
goes to feed the furious furnace.
Your technology is living,
is a part of life, like oak-trees,
like the blood that pounds within you
is a thing to make us stronger,
but you cast it off and curse it
as you hate the land that bore you
so you build it bad and barren
and you deem it dead and dreadful,
though you could not live without it.
And the cutting edge you treasure
is the sword that swings above you
but your thoughtless greed and terror
are the things that set it swaying
while you fumble to control it
though you dare not grasp it boldly
or take up this tool for living
as a part of all that matters
and a way to build me better.
So you slice yourselves to pieces
and forget the ways of wholeness
mixing everything with money
for the crown is gone and scattered
and although my arms are open
you ignore me or despise me,
you prefer to do things to me
taking with no thought of giving,
looking neither back nor forward.
And you fear to live while living
and you fear to end in rotting
while all wisdom rots within you
for you will not care or love me.
So I hate you for your blindness
for your lack of love, your coldness
and you will not listen to me
and your eyes are hard and empty.
Vicious wire round the circles
and the spirals are forgotten
and the wall is undefended
and the shield-wall has been broken
and the knights are all departed
and the fields are closed for farming
and the abbeys slowly crumble
and the tools of craft abandoned
and the ships forget their vigil
and the poets have been gelded
and the maypole slows to stillness.
All your ways and works are fading
and you mock at my defenders
and you have no pride in making
and you all refuse the burden
and you take no joy in living
and you only care for profit
and you will not hear my passion.
Now rise up, my dark stone-builders
all my Celts in joyful sadness
my refined and sweet-tongued Romans
come, my staunch and stalwart Saxons
and my noble knights of Normans,
bring your weapons, come, avenge me
if you love me, break these suburbs
with their tentacles upon me
set to cover up and crush me.
Bring your axe and bring your hammer
break the chains that bind about me.
Free me from the strangling shadows,
let us choose to act together,
draw the poisons from my rivers,
let my air be fit for breathing,
set an undimmed beacon burning.
Rise up now you folk who hear me,
all who see and care and love me,
come and win me from the traitors
who abandon me and harm me,
set me free and listen to me,
for I cannot bear indifference
and I never could compel you:
I shall die if no one loves me.
Heirs of kings, come claim your kingdom,
all of you who hear my calling,
if your blood and bone remember
if you trust and can be trusted
if you know yourself in wholeness
if you build me and defend me
if you do the best that’s in you
if you care and give love freely
if you will not cease from striving
if your heart is brave and faithful
if you feel your blood is burning
come and claim me as your lover
step and speak, take notice of me
shake away the claims of shadows;
I am eager, waiting for you.
As our vital love is thrusting
and the world is growing greener
as the rain will lash upon us
and the river run to ocean
as the trees reach green above us
and the cities still stand splendid
as all making thrives and prospers
and the past and future marry
at this point we call the present
every man will be my lover,
every woman be Britannia.