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Into the dark woods


Still looking at the process of writing - exploring atmosphere, themes and feelings through poetry at the beginning of a novel. This poem came a couple of years before I started serious work on The Shadow of Nanteos. I was walking on my own up in Cwm Einion near Eglwysfach in Ceredigion. The Forestry Comission have covered the hillside in conifers and the valley is dark and sinister now. All along the high, narrow valley are cottages and small holdings where my relations lived in the past and which feature in stories told to me by my mother over the years: Llwyngwinau, Bronwion, Dol-goch. In the Nineteenth Century the valley would have been more heavily populated, with the tiny chapel full and the leadmine, where family members worked, in operation into the Twentieth Century. But many of the smaller cottages are unoccupied or are second homes and the open land ( the native trees removed long ago through charcoal production or the bark harvest) covered in what we called as children 'the dark woods'. These are eerily quiet and empty at ground level.

Fear

At dusk, suddenly from the trees appeared the hare,

Oozing panic it danced on the track.

Creature of legend, of open space

Wrong to be on that forestry road,

That grim, conifer-poisoned place.

Terror in every movement:

The see-saw gait

The quiver of its paddle-feet.

Ears like shoe-horns,

Eyes bulging, it gathered itself

Rose up and ran from us

A lone thing, back to the dark woods.

Towards the end of the novel a terrified hare appears on the road in front of the characters. To people in Eighteenth Century Cardiganshire the natural world was charged with symbolic meaning and a hare in certain circumstances an unlucky omen.


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