Just over [Stonehenge’s] shoulders I could see, in the blue haze of the remote distance, the spire of Salisbury Cathedral.
— Elihu Burritt, A Walk from London to Land’s End (1865)
Seascape of land: chalky waves that dip
and swell in barrow-mounds—whose graves?
The secret’s lost in history’s haze and pale
green life rooting into thinnest soil.
What tree could grow here? Only stone,
quarried, labored—by whom? A pagan mystery.
Briton, Roman, Saxon, Dane have come
and gone. Who left this pile of stones standing
in the midst and mist of plain? Stonehenge!
Pillars and cross-stones in temple-form.
A century of scholars couldn’t tell how rude,
unlettered men beguiled the stones into place,
transformed granite slabs to giants in a ring.
Elihu, you calculate the weight of columns
squared and hewn and hauled a hundred miles
or more up Salisbury Plain: the “how”
still teases, and the “why.” Look farther: there,
beyond the circled plinths, the distant spire
of a cathedral, as if man always prayed in stone
his soul’s desire.
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