Ode on the
D.J. Taylor, ‘Devil‘s Chair, Stiperstones, Shropshire‘
Bleak rocks, for sure no man seeks respite here
nor loiters gladly at such seething heights,
where brimstone burns its paths through jagged air
that howls in pain through piercing cries of kites.
Geologist may fix a neat account:
pale quartzite ridging over glacial sheets,
tors rising sharp in freeze and thaw extremes;
were he to venture darkling by this mount,
fresh trails might turn his tracks from worn conceit
and newfound fractures cleave his test regimes.
Proud throne, illumined by no earthly light,
but collecting spirit flares and witching fire
that cluster yearly come the longest night
above the misty swirls upon the mire.
See! Lucifer surveys his summoned throng,
presides election of their leading force,
rejoices cruelly in their gruesome games;
the Stiperstones resound in ancient song
and chants run streaming over bloodied gorse
till dawn engulfs in shrouds of scarlet flames.
- - -
Poetry Nook contest winner, September 2021
- - -
I was delighted to win a contest with this poem, especially as I’d written it as part of a series following Grandad Teague’s death in December 2012. His passing was quite a loss and I sought comfort by revisiting in poetry all the places I associated with him. The link with Shropshire is particularly strong and I took several trips around the county during early 2013. And one of those trips brought me, brought us, to the Devil’s Chair.
I was very young when I first visited Shropshire on a family holiday, but I remember seeing the Stiperstones for the first time. This is a hill with a lot of rocky outcrops. It was fun to climb up the hill and walk along to one of the largest outcrops, known as the Devil’s Chair. According to legend, the Devil himself had brought the rocks to the Stiperstones, carrying them in an apron, funnily enough! He’d travelled across from Ireland and he set up the stones to make himself a throne. On the longest night of the year, he holds a bit of a party, with all sorts of spirit beings turning up and making merry in rather violent fashion. I hoped to bring this out in the poem.