Poem ‘Weapon Take’

Weapon Take

No rusty blade
ever turns up here,
no shadow of a ship
or bejewelled belt;

no iconic helm
to add credence
to our wounded identity.
Not even signs

of a mystery hillock
rising in hugging mists
to excite or intrigue
those metal detector men.

Merely one vast industrial
scar, scoured of feature,
almost of life, tamed,
or destroyed,

depending on your view,
turned inside out
by Angevin priors
and inscrutable Dutchmen.

I come from a long
line of diggers
and dark-eyed women,
grown out of this morass,

hardened to sweat
and pitiless Ural winds.
People who made-do,
though never in

any doubt they
were the subjected
men of their Hundred,
the brave new Wapentake,

where the councillors
still speak in a
double-Dutch behind
tall, timbered walls.

poem and image © copyright dfbarker 2012
*poem first published in collection ‘Anonymous Lines’, available at amazon.

** Wapentake was the Danish word for the English Hundred (a small, political unit, originally meaning a hundred homes). This word is still used in the ‘Danelaw’ counties of eastern England.

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27 thoughts on “Poem ‘Weapon Take’

  1. Hi David,

    The moment I saw the picture, I thought it was painted in The Netherlands, it could easily have been my country!

    What a great poem, a voice from those Medieval times. You take us into this history and make it pesonal with your own family roots. I love the way you mention the dark-eyed women.

    I had to look up inscrutable. 🙂
    In the tags I see “fenland” is that connected to Finland?

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  2. Hi Ina, I’m very grateful for your comments once again. Fenland is the general terms used in England for low-lying areas of former wetland, mainly a huge area of England from Cambridge to Lincoln. As I suggest, Dutch engineers like Vermuyden, played a large part in draining the vast area. My mother (a dark eyed woman!) used to describe the Dutch, who still have a strong influence here, as ‘inscrutable’! Perhaps all she meant was that they were hard to understand! 🙂
    Yes, I see you are interested in your own family history, as I am, and I see that the majority of English DNA still reflects those first settlers after the ice age, people from Spain, essentially strong, swarthy people with darker eyes and complexions, quite unlike the later Celts and Anglo-Saxons who were taller and fairer, who clearly didn’t settle here in a many numbers as we first thought, otherwise it would show in the DNA. Hope this make sense! Thank you once again, Ina.

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  3. Lovely Sir. It describes my adopted home beautifully. After all, Danelaw, Cromwell and John Wesley to name a few great things that have sprung from the marsh.

    Truly you have a gift.

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  4. Hi. Your painting could be here in New Brunswick along the Saint John River near Gagetown. I love the colors, especially the pink in the sky and the wind in the nearby grasses. Coincidentally, there is a fort in the Gagetown area that archaeologists have not been able to find although they know the approximate location. Your poem reminds me of this. We learned about ‘wapentake’ in my Viking history course… great resonance in the title of the poem. Jane

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  5. And I thank you kind Sir! Now, Wesley, there’s a fellow I’ve been meaning to find out more about.
    I struggle with religion. I love the incense and colour of catholicism, but am not so sure about the proliferation of saints (also colourful). I admire people like John Foxe, Wycliffe, William Tyndale, their message but I still feel, deep down, that something dreadful was lost with the destruction of the beauty of the monasteries and the colour stripped from the churches. I will never have true faith. 🙂

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  6. Thank you Jane! There are still ‘Norse-Danish’ words in the dying (probably dead!) Lincolnshire dialect. Some of them may have found their way over to NB.

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  7. Wesley, one of my inspirations. I agree about the monasteries, I was brought up near Bolton Abbey and often dreamt how it would have been before Henry and that villain Thomas!

    Faith? It comes in many forms my friend, it has always been a large part of who I am so I do not crave for anything else. It has been tested, time and time again but held firm within me. It is a good place to be for it brings an inner peace and certainty.

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  8. I’ve been away for a bit but happy to return and see another of your glowing paintings. Glowing as in how your paintings emanate light from the canvas to screen to the viewer’s room is magic.

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  9. Wonderful truth-telling poem about the woes of over-industrialization having wiped out the “days of yore” when the term danelaw was still literal!

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  10. so wonderful and peaceful…..with an enigma of trance.
    baffled by the use of diction in a manner isolating the world or the place created from the rest of the universe of mankind

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  11. Thank you Granbee! You know, my grandmother used to say to me ‘we are Danes!’ – well, we were English, of course, but she wasn’t wrong, either!

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