The Secret Pages: Craig y Gigfran

Erected to the memory of soldiers from Birmingham District who fell 1 July 1916
(Bronze plaque on the cairn on Craig y Gigfran)

You told us, as we followed you
on the grassy road curved by the hillside,
or poked fearfully into little caverns,
that these marked abandoned attempts
at mining for manganese (I think);
that a gunpowder charge was set off
to alert the town to an incoming ship;
that a lad from what are now tumbled,
roofless walls was at school with you;
that in summer you and your school mates
slid down the grassed slopes on old jute sacks;
that the whole hillside was less deserted,
not reserved for walkers and sheep.

We stooped for stones just before the gate,
carried them over the slabs of volcanic vomit
and added them to the summit. We posed
for photographs, propped against the cairn,
or gazing, Darien-like, across the town and bay.

The kids and I come up the other path,
some walking, some carried up the hill.
Partly for the education in place,
partly because I can’t help myself,
mostly to stop this knowledge, and you,
from fading as certainly as the unnamed,
unregimented Somme soldiery,
I tell them all those things and add a stone.

Notes:

Craig y Gigfran: roughly ‘Rock of the Raven’. Darien-like: see Keat’s On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer: Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes/ He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men/ Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—/ Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

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