Stone Circles and Literary Connections

I'm so enjoying our visits to stone circles and, of particular interest for me, are the literary and historical connections. Our day out took us to Long Meg and Her Daughters, Glassonby Stone Circle, Mayburgh Henge, King Arthur's Round Table and, finally, Brougham Castle.

Jacob Thompson The Druids Cutting the Mistletoe, with Long Meg in the background

William Wordsworth wrote of Long Meg and Her Daughters "next to Stonehenge it is beyond dispute the most notable relic that this or probably any other country contains".

In 1822 he wrote:

The Monument Commonly Called Long Meg
A weight of Awe not easy to be borne
Fell suddenly upon my spirit, cast
From the dread bosom of the unknown past,
When first I saw that family forlorn;
Speak Thou, whose massy strength and stature scorn
The power of years – pre-eminent, and placed
Apart, to overlook the circle vast.
Speak Giant-mother! tell it to the Morn,
While she dispels the cumbrous shades of night;
Let the Moon hear, emerging from a cloud,
At whose behest uprose on British ground
That Sisterhood in hieroglyphic round
Forth-shadowing, some have deemed the infinite
The inviolable God that tames the proud.

The poet Michael Drayton wrote of the stones in Poly-Olbion (1612):

                                At the lesse Salkeld, neere
To Edan's Bank, the like is scarcely any where,
Stones seventie seven stand, in manner of a ring,
Each full ten foot in height, but yet the strangest thing,
Their equall distance is, the circle that compose,
Within which other stones lye flat, which doe inclose
The bones of men long dead (as there the people say). 
The Poly-Olbion project is a fascinating poetic journey through the landscape, history, traditions and customs of early modern England and Wales.
John Aubrey, a contemporary of Drayton, quotes another, unknown writer, and this suggests that the Circle has changed a great deal since the seventeenth century:
"...a circle of stones of about two hundred in number, of several tons. The diameter of this circle is about the diameter ....of the Thames from the Heralds' Office....In the middle are two tumuli, or barrows of cobble-stones, nine or ten foot high."
The legend connected with Long Meg says that the stones are a coven of witches turned to stone. Tradition says that if you can count the stones twice and get the same number, they will return to life.
The poet Andrew Young, in his eerie poem Long Meg and Her Daughters (1936), echoed this legend:
Viewing her daughters Long Meg said,
"Come stranger, make your choice of one;
All are my children, stone of my stone,
And none of them yet wed."

The poet declines the offer, and:

Meg frowned, "you should be dead
To take instead a young tombstone to bed."

Finally, for Long Meg and Her Daughters, Celia Fiennes  in her Tour noted

A mile from Peroth in a low bottom a moorish place stands great Mag and her Sisters, the story is that these soliciting her to an unlawful love by an enchantment are turned with her into stone; the stone in the middle which is called Mag is much bigger and have some form like a statue or figure of a body but the rest are but some many craggy stones, but they affirme they cannot be counted twice alike as is the story of Stonehenge...

After Long Meg we moved onto Glassonby Stone Circle. W G Collingwood, Ruskin's biographer and antiquary, excavated the stones of Glassonby Stone Circle. Glassonby stone circle is a short distance north west of the village of Glassonby, and just over one mile  to the north of Long Meg and her Daughters. The circle of continuous stones is on a raised mound, which extends beyond the base of the stones. Until they were excavated by W.G.Collingwood in 1900, the stones were covered by the mound. 

Finally, for our stone circle exploration we visited Mayburgh Henge. I'm not a great admirer of very modern verse, but I do love this poem by Heather Lane published in a wonderful collection Places of Poetry:

Who first said,
make the circle here?
And who agreed
to haul up cobbles,
a thousand thousand,
from the river?
Whose choice this point
Of water and light,
sunrise, spring?
For the living and dead
a gathering,
white and black and red.
You cannot choose
but place your hands
on the centrestone -
its hurtful fellows gone
for gate posts and thresholds;
their myths downtrodden,
Its voice drowned
by the roar
of the new.

I'm amazed how many literary connections with these three stone circles. So, I'll post separately about King Arthur's Round Table and Brougham Castle!