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The Inheritance

September 11, 2011

Lammas altar

When my maternal ancestors emigrated to Australia in 1853 and then trekked to the Wimmera to take up their selection 20 years later, my great-great grandfather John Fletcher named the house he built “Harvest Home”.  Now a house, in those days, would have been little more than a wattle-and-daub construction and a rather draughty affair. The Wimmera was certainly isolated (still is) and my Cumbrian ancestors were a very long way from the wetter lands of home. 

Harvest Home, also called Ingathering,a traditional English harvest festival, celebrated from antiquity and surviving to modern times in isolated regions. Participants celebrate the last day of harvest in late September by singing, shouting, and decorating the village with boughs. The cailleac, or last sheaf of corn (grain), which represents the spirit of the field, is made into a harvest doll and drenched with water as a rain charm. This sheaf is saved until spring planting.

The ancient festival also included the symbolic murder of the grain spirit, as well as rites for expelling the devil.

On this day, September 11, history tells us that these events happened:

  • 1609 – Henry Hudson discovers Manhattan Island and the indigenous people living there.
  • 1776 – British-American peace conference on Staten Island fails to stop nascent American Revolutionary War
  • 1792 – The Hope Diamond is stolen along with other French crown jewels when six men break into the house used to store them
  • 1941 – Ground is broken for the construction of The Pentagon.
  • 1961 – Foundation of the World Wildlife Fund.
  • 1997 – NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor reaches Mars.
  • 2001 – The September 11 attacks take place in the United States. Airplane hijackings result in the collapse of the World Trade Center in New York City, damage to The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and the crashing of a passenger airliner near Shanksville, Pennsylvania
  • 2007 – Russia tests the largest conventional weapon ever, the Father of all bombs

and in 1885, on this day, English novelist D.H. Lawrence was born.

The Inheritance

SINCE you did depart
Out of my reach, my darling,
Into the hidden,
I see each shadow start
With recognition, and I
Am wonder-ridden.

 I am dazed with the farewell,
But I scarcely feel your loss.
You left me a gift
Of tongues, so the shadows tell
Me things, and silences toss
Me their drift.

 You sent me a cloven fire
Out of death, and it burns in the draught
Of the breathing hosts,
Kindles the darkening pyre
For the sorrowful, till strange brands waft
Like candid ghosts.

 Form after form, in the streets
Waves like a ghost along,
Kindled to me;
The star above the house-top greets
Me every eve with a long
Song fierily.

 All day long, the town
Glimmers with subtle ghosts
Going up and down
In a common, prison-like dress;
But their daunted looking flickers
To me, and I answer, Yes!

 So I am not lonely nor sad
Although bereaved of you,
My little love.
I move among a kinsfolk clad
With words, but the dream shows through
As they move.

 

 

 

 

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