Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Cardinal Directions

Today is my birthday, and I thought I’d share my beautiful birthday present. It’s a series of reclaimed slate discs, inscribed with the words of my short poem The Cardinal Directions by letter-carver and sculptor Giles MacDonald. Giles came and set them into the lawn beneath our rose pergola yesterday. As you will see, already nature is incorporating them into the garden, with sun dapple, fallen leaves, and even birdshit.

The Cardinal Directions

The first disc is blank, for the navel of the world, which is now in Idbury, as any fule kno. Previous navels of the world that I know of include Delphi, Easter Island, and the mouth of Heart River in North Dakota. There’s even one in a song by Jesse Winchester, which turns up in his backyard, just as it has in mine. The next four roundels lead you through the four lines of the poem, as you walk the length of the pergola (which in six weeks time will be a glorious mass of white Wedding Day roses).

the earth

the stars

my heart


Here are two close-ups to show the beauty of Giles’s letter-cutting, and the intimate detail of the chisel-marks.

Close up of the letter o

Close up of the words the stars

The sculpture isn’t quite complete. At a later stage there will a stone column - a world axis - at the far end of the pergola, with the same text in rudimentary Anglo-Saxon.

seo eorðe
se steorran
min heorte

If anybody out there spots any errors in this, I’d be grateful to have them pointed out before Giles takes his chisel in hand… I’m looking forward to leaving a 21st-century inscription in Old English, complete with an eth (ð) and a thorn (Þ), just to puzzle future generations.


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful gift, indeed. Are the letters incised or raised, or some combination? How is this done?

Neil said...

The letters are literally hammered out with a chisel. I took the photos at noon. Looking at the slates at six, I realised that the architecture of the letterforms would be much more apparent, because the sun slanting across them would show the incised lines with much more clarity.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Lovely. All stone-cutting amazes me, with its parallel requirements of toughness and precision, and lettering on slate is more amazing than most. I've forgotten most of my Anglo-Saxon (what little I ever had – it never came easily, even with some rudimentary German up my sleeve) so you'll have to get your translation checked by a higher authority. Many happy returns.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Just lovely. Your pergola walkway reminds me of the one in the back of Lord Leighton's House in London. Happy Birthday!

Neil said...

Thanks, Pamela. I must go and look at the pergola in Lord Leighton's garden next time I'm footloose and fancy free in London. Our pergola is now covered in a profusion of white Wedding Day roses.