by Waldo Williams
What is Man?
What is living? The broad hall found
between narrow walls.
What is acknowledging” Finding the one root
under the branches' tangle.
What is believing? Watching at home
till the time arrives for welcome.
What is forgiving? Pushing your way through thorns
to stand alongside your old enemy.
What is singing? The ancient gifted breath
drawn in creating.
What is labour but making songs
from the wood and the wheat?
What is it to govern kingdoms? A skill
still crawling on all fours.
And arming kingdoms? A knife placed
in a baby's fist.
What is it to be a people? A gift
lodged in the heart's deep folds.
What is love of country? Keeping house
among a cloud of witnesses.
What is the world to the wealthy and strong? A wheel,
Turning and turning.
What is the world to earth's little ones? A cradle,
rocking and rocking.
That was what the stone carcass once was, a girl;
each time I see these bones, she takes hold of me again,
and back I go to her haunts, with every year of mine
answering for a century of hers.
She lived among people who knew what peace was,
buying their goods from the earth and the earth's gifts,
wondering silently at birth, marriage and death, tending
the human kindred's bonds.
All too soon she was put away, in her eternal foetus-crouch:
twelve times she greeted the arrival of May, and then
began to keep company with the darkness that took her, her voice
no longer heard on the hill.
So that the wide sky became deeper on account of her,
the blue sky brighter on account of her, and
the unseen ageless house above the hill's peaks more firmly founded
on account of her.
A child's skeleton in the Avebury museum, from around 2,500 BC.
From Rowan Williams, The Other Mountain.