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Go South-By-South West Young Man

When Sir Walter Raleigh’s first expedition
set sail for The New World in the year 1584,
it is reported that his party of pioneers included six
Morris-dancers and an accompanying hobby-horse.
The dancers would no doubt have helped entertain
the crew during their three months at sea, whilst
the hobby horse, being a kind of English centaur,
would have been fed warm ale and scraps of meat
in order to stave off scurvy and prevent equine lameness.
The first Europeans to set foot in what
would later come to be known as Texas,
would have been greeted by The Caddo Nation;
a group of sedentary farmers who believed the
world to be populated by supernatural beings.
The Caddo knew of The Green Man and of Beowa.
And their lives hinged around a series of complex
seasonal rituals marking the cycle of life and death
- performed in the hopes of ensuring favorable
relations between themselves and the spirit world.
By night, I find myself seated amongst these border Indians.
Cross-legged in a conical grass hut. Sharing a
bowl of foaming tea made from wild olive leaves.
My brain churning. My blood racing. Sweat pouring from my body.
A faint yet constant buzzing noise in my feverish ears.
A noise which sounds, at first, like crickets rubbing
their long legs together in the tall grass. But which
might equally be the distant sound of a fiddle being scratched.
The Old People are sending me their voices, from far far away.
From a shallow hollow betwixt rolling hills.
From the place where the Earth meets the Sky.
I was born from Cotswold barley, and thus
to the Cotswold barley must I one day return.
So bury my heart by a bend in the babbling brook.
Low down in the Ironstone loam, near
the roots of a softly sighing willow tree.
Out amongst the cuckoo-spit and the damsel-flies. All
watched over by the fossils of long-dead sea-urchins.
In 1584, when Sir Walter’s men left the New World,
they took with them a great many exotic animal skins,
and necklaces made from the finest of ocean pearls.
History, alas, does not record what became of either
the six Morris Men or their accompanying hobby horse.
But my hope is that they decided to stay on
a while longer in order to smoke more tobacco.

SXSW 2011 'Guardian' Interview

Official 'Way Of The Morris' website



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