Hilda On The Shore

Ina asked about the Saxon name of Whitby. So I dug out this from my poetry files – it may not have been seen . . . can’t recall.

Hilda on the Shore

She picks her way with the ebb,
along the Scars towards the Nab.
In her ears, the breakers boom,
like the Roman opinions of Wilfrid –
that man come from Ripon
for the synod at Streonshalgh.

Then Cuthbert’s quiet, Celtic mind
from the north touches her,
even across the sea from Lindisfarne,
as gentle as the boneless sea hare
that glides through the bright,
clear pool at her feet.

Under the Abbey cliff she kneels –
touches the serpent coiled in stone;
then black arrow-heads she ponders,
a mass of devil’s bodkins fused
in death upon a slab of shale.

From the pool a face is staring;
her Saxon eyes are vivid still.
Her ring finger breaks the surface
and Caedmon’s music fills her breast;
She smiles to see the hydra yield
its secret heart beneath her gaze.

Harry Nicholson 2011

note: The Synod of Whitby was held 664 CE. At the Synod the old British church yielded to Rome.
To the Saxons the town was “Streonshalgh”, Whitby is the name used by the later Danes.
Hilda was the Abbess of Streonshalgh (pro. Strensall…. with a throaty ll.)
Streon’s Place – or similar.
The ‘bodkins’ are belemnite fossils.


About Harry Nicholson

I'm an enameller who works with a kiln, fusing pictures in glass onto copper. I write a few poems and short stories. There is an eBook anthology of them, 'Green Linnet' on Amazon. Also a novel, 'Tom Fleck', set in the North of England of 1513 - the year of Flodden. A sequel to 'Tom Fleck' is 'The Black Caravel' published in 2016. My anthology of poems came out in 2015: 'Wandering About.' I've a blog of poems, stories and art at: https://1513fusion.wordpress.com/
This entry was posted in blog and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Hilda On The Shore

  1. Mike Patrick says:

    Publishing a collection of your poetry is a wonderful idea. If not that, I hope you continue to drop them into your blog. Without the knowledge of the land, each becomes a cross between a seminar and a research project. Very enjoyable.

  2. Poets Rally says:

    She picks her way with the ebb,
    along the Scars towards the Nab.
    In her ears, the breakers boom,
    like the Roman opinions of Wilfrid –
    that man come from Ripon
    for the synod at Streonshalgh.

    stunning writing, smiles… 😉

  3. duncancleary says:

    Nicely done Harry; no doubt some of the larger Mesozoic vertebrate fossils led to other myths concerning dragons and such.

  4. a historical piece though I am at a loss. I would have to read up more on those characters. Happy gooseberry day! 🙂


  5. Ina says:

    Hi Harry
    This is very beautiful and interesting, I love how you wove poem and history together.
    Hilda drove the snakes over the cliff, something tells me there had been some serious emancipation going on since the days of Adam, Eve and their snake!

    Strensall, working on the throaty ll

    Thank you very much for this posting 🙂

  6. Morning says:

    Glad to see you at poetry picnic.

  7. Lovely poem, Harry. I liked the reference to bodkins in regard to the fossils.

  8. ChrisJ says:

    Loved the poem–definite northern references. Not quite sure what the second to last stanza means “the serpent coiled”.. is it referring to fossils?…The Synod of Whitby — I know a little about. Wish I knew more of the history of those times. I’m not familiar with Credo. Will have to Google it.

    • ‘Serpent coiled’ refers to the ammonite fossil. Local legend says that Hilda drove headless snakes over the cliff – so these Jurassic stone creatures (150 million years old) are their bodies..

  9. vivinfrance says:

    Lovely, lovely. I seem to remember seeing this one a long time ago, maybe on fbf? Did you read Melvin Bragg’s very big book Credo, about that period and place?

  10. Susannah says:

    Interesting and beautifully poetic! Thanks very much for sharing this with I Saw Sunday Harry.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s