Crossing Time, Poems of the Dartmoor Pixies...
...owes its existence to a set of folk stories collected by William Crossing on Dartmoor and originally published in 1890 in a pamphlet entitled Tales of the Dartmoor Pixies.
William Crossing (1847-1928) was really and truly a Dartmoor man, as his famous Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor bears witness. Less well known, but also extensive, are his writings on folklore and legends of the moor. Unfortunately, while he was away, his lifetime's notes on the history of Dartmoor were accidentally burnt by his housekeeper.
He was popular for playing tin whistle and improvising poems about his day's wanderings at moorland inns and farmhouses he visited in the evenings.
In The Western Weekly Mercury he described a pixy revel:
"Bounding over the turf, and making light of the rocks in
their path, they would press down the valley, being joined
here and there by other troops, all anxious to reach the
bridge [New Bridge] and indulge in their gambols on the
beautiful piece of level sward which local story tells us once
formed their al fresco ballroom."
This collection of narrative poems draws its ancient motifs from Crossing’s ‘Glimpses of Elfin Haunts and Antics’ as he, in turn, draws from Shakespeare and quotes Oberon from A Midsummer Night’s Dream:
""We the globe can compass soon
Swifter than the wand’ring moon."
Inspiration is a gift that you can make of what you will. It could be a ribbon or pin left whimsically at the Pixies’ House on Sheepstor, where William Crossing saw his first and only pixy, or the few leaves twisted into an offering at Stumpy Oak, where I saw mine.
I hope to give credence to the Dartmoor pixy by a little acting in his name.
May the legends of Dartmoor live long and multiply.
The Boulder in the Room
This house has an uncommon boulder
neither in nor out of doors,
but spanning both.
You could fancy there's a threshold there,
not necessarily to the normal outside -
a link to the valley
where all the boulders ring
with half heard cadences,
just as they did when trees formed
a full cape for the spirits born of forest
and no man dare to tear the branches down.
We are left with just their shimmering garlands
around the faces of the waterholes
we've ripped out of the sky.
Let's not be strict on when the other time was,
for it was long ago, and still is,
if you care to rest your head up on that rock,
shut your eyes and slumber
against its old grey. You can hear
the layers of dreams, gone hard,
begin to soften.
An image may strike you like an axe,
so you jump a whole life in your sleep.
Swearing that you should be dead,
you cross back the threshold
and thank your lucky stars.
But also you remember
how the rock went through you
and take care to sit by it often,
as it curls up in the front wall,
like a wolf asleep.
It is a head of creature earth -
the eye of some forgotten storm,