The Snowden Monument


1. Stone


Up on the moors a marker stands,

A point of reference for a past,

Its millstone blocks are still edged sharp.

The past is gone, the past remains.


Its plaque is stamped with cold relief,

Released from duties and from loss,

It stands apart from choices made,

From compromise, from harsh mistakes.


Beyond the ridge the village slips

Into a valley, blind and bleak,

Still full of life chipped from the stone:

The stories new, the stories worn.


The world is circling round these rocks:

Forgotten cairn which marks our loss.



2. White


The milk and mortar ends of time,

The cotton sheets and cobbled streets –

Which shine beneath the western skies –

And clouds which hide the hills from sight.


The Mesolithic depths of life

Are dragged from earth like dock-leaf roots.

They glimmer, broken tooth and jaw,

The glaucous grin of history’s scar.


The markless drifts will melt the walls,

The lambs will slow and watch the gulls,

The frost will dust the shadow’s track.

A tarnished memory turns its back.


The bread and fish, the starch and lead,

The white forgotten light of fate.



3. Gold Standard


The towns and villages were choked,

With lines of sunken eyes and hopes.

The basic decency of folk:

Together bound, together broke.


They gathered round to try again,

Rebuilding shattered lives of men.

Where wealth was measured out in graves:

A balancing of lost and saved.


The mills were emptied of the souls,

As soulless mechanisms rolled,

Across the disregarded world:

They snuffed out hopes and hoarded gold.


The rich can claim no small success,

As lives are crushed for their excess.



4. Freedom


Where golden plover rest in flocks,

The sun will set and ages pass,

And forests grow and fall and rot.

Each spring the plover find their nests.


Where tewits tumble through the clouds,

Our lives are measured out in earth,

In hopes and prayers, in bitter joys.

The tewits call the start of spring.


Where curlew mourn the rising sun,

We cut our links and try to run,

We buy the land and think it ours.

The curlew drift on wings of song,


The moor has drawn us here to see:

For those who don’t, the birds can be.



5. Debt Burden


You sought it in the word of god,

You sought it in the human heart,

You sought it round the noble fire,

You sought it, then you let it die.


You sought it in the free exchange,

You sought it in the chains of gold,

You sought it in the price of time,

You sought it, then you let it die.


You sought it in the bought and sold,

You sought it for the highest price,

You sought it at the highest cost,

You sought it, then you let it die.


You lost your hope and lost your way.

You built up debts you could not pay.



6. Traces and Tracks


The landscape stretches out of time,

Beyond the solid to the sun:

The setting, bloodied, monstrous sun.

The moors are full of spirits lost.


We crucify our histories here,

We break the links and travel on:

Erase the mysteries of our age,

Betray the ones who need us most.


The empty tombs and hollow shrines –

Where rites of truth and pure belief

Were once the center of the world –

Are crumbling and forgotten stones.


Across the moors are hidden tracks

Where spirits weep on cotton grass.



7. Handcart


The madness of the century churned,

Within, without, with demagogues,

With splits and deaths and compromise,

The wheels ran smooth and fires were stoked.


And fear had spurred the horses hard,

And land deals turned and history spurned.

The rich could cheat the grave once more,

And pour their assets overseas.


The shattered bones and broken homes,

And promises to workers burned,

In chapel halls and Liberal clubs,

Where speeches drifted cheap as smoke.


The mad, the rich, the charlatans:

Their cart rode past and you hitched on.



8. The Speech of Moors


The ancient language of the hills,

Hides questions in the tussock grass.

So close to earth, they feed its roots.

So close to sky,they shake the seeds.


Your scattered ash returns the words,

As old as rock and lost to time:

The dialect of moorland farms,

Forgotten lanes and trackless moss.


Up here your lives can ebb away:

A cairn, a plaque, a hiding place.

In snows the sheep will huddle round,

So far from everything you were.


And this is where the questions start,

It’s where they end, it’s where we part.




Dedicated to the people who always carry the greatest weight, and who always suffer the most in times like these.


13 Comments to “The Snowden Monument”

  1. Viscount Philip Snowden of Ickornshaw was the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the first Labour Party Government. He was one of the leading lights in the early Labour and Trades Union movement. In 1931, during the early days of the Great Depression he followed Ramsey MacDonald into a National Coalition government, thus betraying the Labour Party – and dealing the movement a near fatal blow in the following election. His budget, which lowered unemployment payments in order to try to keep Britain “in” the gold Standard led to great suffering amongst the working folk he had set out to champion.

    A monument to him – in the form of a cairn – is situated on moorland above the village of Cowling, on the Lancashire/Yorkshire border. It is an isolated place, remote and beautiful.

  2. Wow. This is so good. Love the history for us to sink our teeth into. ‘The past is gone, the past remains.’…perfectly said.

  3. Really enjoyed reading this. “Its plaque is stamped with cold relief, released from duties and from loss. It stands apart from choices made from compromise, from harsh mistakes” Superb!

  4. I feel I have been walking on the moors listening to the melodious recitation of one of the Old Masters. You really rock this form. The closing lines are absolutely perfect. And, as always, it is the working poor who suffer, whatever the times. Some things never change! Loved this, kiddo!

  5. I agree with Sherry, yours is the voice of a master. The sheep would do better huddling around your words than a cold stone monument to dead promises.

  6. I enjoyed your depthful poem and the added historical perspective. A very complex and detailed write.

  7. This poem is admirably done! We understand the difficult moments of the implementation which complicates “And fear had spurred the horses hard…And land deals turned and history spurned.” The impressions of the situation are strong!

  8. I want Niel Young to put this to music, then perform an acoustic version. I can hear it and it is good.

  9. I feel transported back to a classical time and listening to a voice from a past recaptured and presented here as a banquet of words. Thank you 🙂

  10. Wow…a soul-stirring piece. The promise is we’re all one..Very well penned…!!

  11. What a deep insight you have…intricate details are wonderfully penned down..

  12. whoa – this is epic in scope – well done sir

  13. loved the myriad hues!

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