THE MERRY MAIDENS plays with the idea that the early Christian church didn’t know what to make of the various stone circles, barrows and megaliths that dotted our land. They had to be seen as more clever than their congregation so they simply made things up. Sadly, there are instances today where those in religious power still use the name (or wrath) of God as a means of controlling their people.
THE MERRY MAIDENS
Stood here since time immemorial;
Nineteen stones in perfect formation.
Not knowing why they were put here
Leaves it open to interpretation.
Calendar, congress or cenotaph?
And I do wish to labour the point;
That they were here a long time before
Christ had mastered his first dovetail joint.
Imagine times past, a parish priest,
The Whit Sunday walk to Lamorna.
A girl asks about the standing stones;
He seizes the chance to forewarn her,
“Of heedless young maidens who wanted
To dance on the holiest of days.
The Lord in his ire, turned them to stone;
Once wilful…they’re now set in their ways.”
“That’s harsh…just for dancing” said the girl.
The priest had to strengthen his purpose.
“See those two other stones…there and there.
Well…that’s all that’s left of their pipers.”
The girl’s eyes widened and then narrowed;
A smart girl, not easily smitten.
“Why are they all in different fields?”
The priest said, “Because it is written.”
The party processed down the valley
But the priest turned to Boskenna Cross
And prayed to his Good Lord for guidance
In enlight’ning his people who’s boss.
Inspired by what happened to Lot’s wife;
Paradigm of the Lord’s will defied.
Turned from pillar of society
Into one of sodium chloride.
Thus so inspired, he marched to the cove
And preached to his flock a fine sermon.
How failure to observe the Sabbath
Could turn people into…a dolmen.
He told how the girls danced regardless;
It was almost the new Sabbath day.
On hearing that first chime of midnight
The pipers thought they best get away.
The maids, so wrapped up in their dancing
Were just slaves to the rhythm and pace.
God decided to punish them by
Firmly putting them all in their place.
The girl still had questions unanswered
But knew not to challenge her ‘betters’.
The priest knew his tale was not binding
Until it was marked out in letters.
Once the tale’s written and set in stone
It favours the writer’s agenda.
Be it fable, Bible, Daily Mail…
It seems that God’s mercy or fury,
At least as far as I can perceive,
Depends on who’s telling the story
And what control they wish to achieve.
God only appears unforgiving
In places like Islamic Asia
Where evil medieval thinking has
A will to apply certain pressure.
Which brings us back to that Cornish priest
And the power he needed to wield
That left us with petrified burkhas;
Ne-ne-nineteen of them in a field.
Stifling free will before it can breathe;
Imposition of his church’s stance;
Our priest was just squaring the circle
To stop maidens from wanting to dance.
So why is God no longer angry
And showing a certain forbearance?
Why aren’t we all turned flesh into stone
For failing our Sunday Observance?
No sandstones stand swearing in bunkers
On golf courses all over the land;
No milestones sit in just-polished cars
In lay-bys with a thermos to hand;
And why aren’t there 70,000
Basalt columns supporting their team
The eleven menhirs of Man U
At Old Trafford’s Theatre of Dreams?
No Granite stacks shelves at Sainsburys;
And no Serpentines service the tills.
The Millstone-Gritts don’t meet the Flintstones
While out walking in the Malvern Hills?
Are megaliths spending megabucks
In a search of thrills and adventure?
Does Stonehenge see its sarsens ringed by
Smaller ones impressed by their stature?
Of course God had previous for smiting;
At Minions, Bodmin Moor it is said,
A despicable meanness took place
That killed Sunday League Hurling stone dead.
So with dancers, pipers and hurlers
Turned to stone by God’s act of revenge
It does sort of beg the question
What on earth were they doing at Stonehenge?
© gray lightfoot
Hear Gray read the poem…
The large upright stones of Stonehenge are called sarsen stones because the early church didn’t know what to make of them. They knew they weren’t Christian so they must be Saracen (Moslem) stones… hence the name.