Today my feisty friend Barbara MacDonald (1912-2002) would have been 102 years old. She fought for Dartmoor’s livestock and landscape, she loved to burst the pompous bureaucratic balloon, and she was a straight talker with a great sense of fun. I wrote about her here on her centenary.
I have the poem she wrote on August bank holiday 1970, Visitor to Swincombe: the last wilderness. At that time the Swincombe valley, a natural and wild amphitheatre on southern Dartmoor, was threatened by a reservoir. Bar’s powerful poem says it all.
Visitor to Swincombe: the last wilderness
Why did you come? There’s nothing here for you
Why have you left the world you know and sought the wilderness?
There’s nowhere here to hide;
No sound to fill the echoing void you call your mind;
No chitter-chatter in the breeze
When doubt or thought might bring your fear.
There’s nothing here but wind and sun and endless space
And sheep which could not hear
Were you to speak or cry or play a tune.
Why do you watch the cattle moving on the distant hill?
Are they your link with life when all is still?
Why have you left the clustered cars on other hills
To find your way to loneliness and peace?
There’s no one here to answer when you call.
Go back and join your friends: —or stand
With feet on ancient turf and hand on granite rock;
These are your roots; these are yourself:
These are where man began.