David Lewis Paget
Pengellen - Poem by David Lewis Paget
Each winter the grey-greying streets of Pengellen
Fall silent as dampness creeps in at the hearth,
And miners and men speak in whispers of heaven,
Of darkness and penance, of copper and dearth.
No children are seen on the streets of Pengellen,
Each wife fears her shadow, and hurries inside,
While mirrors have long been discarded, forgotten
That no man may see what his God may decide.
For so it was once that the men of Pengellen
Were busy and purposeful, masters of time,
The wealth that they won taught that greed was forgiven
Though every man feared, and was ruled by the mine.
For deep in the earth with a pick or a chisel,
A shovel, an oath in a gaelic discourse,
They quarried the bowels of some God-awful midden
To pile the green copper in place of the gorse.
So pitted the surface from shaft to Pengellen,
So pitted and scorched that no flower would grow,
And brown was the landscape, and scarred was the bracken
That burst from the copper-green dirt down below.
While every stone cottage gleamed white in Pengellen
To mock at the bracken that patently lied,
For every small child played as happy as heaven
As if they believed they had God on their side.
The copper ran deeper than deep flowing runnels,
The miners would blast, and then pump and shore up,
‘Til some had remarked, ‘were the heavens so tunnelled
The mine would arrive with the first taken up.’
And higher and high were the skimps by Pengellen
‘Like mountains by men’ was the miner’s assent,
Their pride went in hand with their wealth and their women,
And Godless and grim was the worship they spent.
They drilled to the sixty and six hundredth level,
With six levels more to blast out, pump and shore,
No man could have known that the deeper he tunnels,
The darker the horror he finds at his door.
They ranged at the back as the copper was falling,
Stood silent in shock at some evil refrain,
As into the light groped the Prince of the Morning
From where he’d been cast in his thousand year chain.
The miners streamed back to the streets of Pengellen,
They crowded the Kirk that had never been filled,
And prayed to the Lord they had always forsaken,
Then went to their cottages, locked themselves in.
While stamping and raging the length of Pengellen
He called for an anvil to shatter his chain,
The mist and ill wind that had told of his coming
Were never to lift from Pengellen again.
These sixty long years have brought change to Pengellen
No child has grown old and no miner has died,
They fast on a bread that is flat and unleavened,
And drink brackish water for penance beside.
The cottages now are both damp and rat-ridden,
Are grey and neglected, and empty of cheer,
And deep-dense the mist that encloses the midden
Pengellen is lost for the best of each year.
While whispered at evens are long supplications
White-faced behind windows both bolted and barred,
And dearth is a thousand years waiting to happen,
While green is a colour considered ill starr’d.
29 February 1984
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