One of the things which struck me with great force as I toured England and Scotland in 1985, and Ireland, England, and Wales in 1990, was the tremendous antiquity in which the very land was steeped. It was awe-inspiring enough to touch Roman brick (!), for person born and raised in a country that things 300 years is “old,” but the heritage of the British Isles goes so much further back than that… I was particularly taken by the barrow-mounds, to which I had been first introduced in fictional form through the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. To actually be face-to-face with true barrows, in all their reality (though without, so far as I know, barrow-wights), was a remarkable experience.
But familiarity breeds contempt, they say; and it was with great sadness that I learned, later in life, that not all in Britain share this American-of-British-ancestry’s passion, respect, and even reverence for a past which reaches back thousands of years, yet retains a strange and mystic continuity with the present. Just as Americans seem to think nothing turning areas of great natural beauty into strip malls or housing developments, it seems that there are interests in Britain that think nothing of driving roads through, or building car-parks on top of, ancient structures that have stood for millennia… including the tombs of prehistoric kings and chieftains.
In this haunting song, Damh the Bard sings of one such barrow. I do not know whether it is intended to be entirely representative, or whether he had a specific site in mind when he wrote it, but either way, he evokes the feelings of sadness and frustration I myself feel when I hear of antiquities — whether ancient Oaks or ancient Barrows — bulldozed for the sake of what we so glibly call “progress.” In hopes that we may someday, as humans, outgrow our childish lack of respect for those who came before, I give you Damh the Bard’s “The Tomb of the King.”