There are no unforgiving heather hills between us;
you do not roam the loamy moors calling my name
like a madman, chasing the wraith of a girl long gone.

Masefield’s sea does not separate us; you do not stand
like one of Gormley’s men, gazing at the horizon,
while I wrap myself in Pinter’s whore’s cape and wait.

You do not wander the skies in a chariot, searching for
your huntress, under the watchful gaze of the scorpion,
its eyes glittering malevolently in the amaranthine ink.

We have no use for playwrights and poets, for we have
quiet words of our own that whisper down the centuries
and anoint the Beltane ribbons that bind us in our pledge.





~  The ancient Pagan and Celtic ceremony of handfasting marks the taking of a partner.  The couple’s hands are ritually bound together to symbolize their union. Some people choose to use a ribbon that they have both signed. Between Beltane and the Summer Solstice is the most popular time for handfastings.



Posted for the wonderful  One Shot Wednesday at One Stop Poetry




Filed under Free Verse

16 responses to “Handfasting

  1. Brendan

    Love does get beyond its words, and when it does, there is only the simple humility of a handfast under the aegis of the goodly fire.

    Two suggestions: 1) You might get away, in the second stanza, without mentioning the authors; those particulars slow the reading some. Reading, I think, now what would be “Masefield’s sea” be? A broader concession which would keep the flow going might be “Culture’s sea,” and you could lose “Pinter” without losing much of his poignant image. It’s the only stanza where particulars stand out, and I don’t think you need ’em.

    2) Handfasting is not a custom with much currency in the U.S.; it might bear explanation in a note. (Your seep in Celtic tradition lends to what Luke called your “obscene” talent –he’s right –, and you mustn’t change a note of that.)

  2. Thank you for the feedback Brendan, thoughtful and insightful as always. Yes you’re right, it does need a little footnote, I’m on it.

    I know what you mean about the references in the second stanza, they may impede the flow a little but I do quite like references in poetry. As a reader I don’t mind if I come across something I’m not familiar with, a little research can sometimes turn out to be a gem of an idea and from that springs inspiration. The Pinter reference is a little obscure I fear as even those who know his work well did not recognise him as the guy who did the screenplay for The French Lieutenant’s Woman but I do feel I need a playwright and a poet in there to tie in with the final stanza.

    I think that second stanza is just this poet being a little bit selfish and getting some her favourite things into a poem, love Masefield’s ‘Sea Fever’ and Gormley’s men standing on the beach mesmerise me. Did I mention I can be very obstinate? haha Anyway than you for your thoughts my friend, I really value them. I shall think on this some more, I do rewrite my work quite a lot so this may well have the scissors taken to it.

  3. One word- Enchanting!!

    I loved how you described the Handfasting ceremony- is it?
    Not only that, you gave perfect expression to the feelings n emotions associated with it.. 🙂

    Hugs xx

  4. i always love your poems about old/welsh traditons or celtic rituals – this is a beautiful piece julie – have never heard about handfasting before

  5. better with each read

    Peace, hp

  6. smiles. i wonder if the ties that bind were that real if more would stick to them…

  7. moondustwriter

    I love the tradition . Love has so many expressions over the ages – this one is indeed spoken quietly to the beloved

    thanks for the One Shot

  8. ladynyo

    Absolutely beautiful…rich, haunting and enchanting poem.

    Lady Nyo

  9. Always thought this was such a sweet, yet simple ceremony spoken from the heart – as your dedication to it. A beautiful display of the tradition, and while I did not catch to whom the references were drawn, I do like them…I think it draws me to ponder and to -ask- about the whom, rather than stirring any sort of disinterest or confusion in me. Another lovely work. As ever, I feel much the inferior to be sharing the same corner of the blogosphere as you :P.

  10. Beautiful. I like the references to Pinter and Masefield. I knew them both and think those pieces fitted into yours enriching your piece without many words. There’s a long literary tradition of using them; but I’m sure Luke and Brendan know that in modern works they are usually not done. It’s your work I say. Do what you want. I loved this. I only vaguely knew of the ceremony. It seems reminiscent of jumping the broom or perhaps vice versa. Thanks,

  11. Gorgeous use of language, revealing mastery and inner music. xxxj

  12. You already know I love this! I’m very glad you didn’t take the reference to Pinter out and stuck to your guns, it’s made me watch the French Luitenants woman again this week, reminding me of how amazing it was. Your words flow like honey and your description and flow in this poem is second to none.

  13. Beautiful description of the promise we make to our soul-mate…just beautiful!

  14. My son’s marriage was a handfasting, and the words and rituals were very rich. AFA the nuts and bolts, I think the addition of the footnote was helpful, but I didn’t personally find the literary/mythic allusions overtly obscure. A rather different love poem than your more sensuous style, and I actually liked it all the more for that–its important I think to sometimes delve into the more cerebral side of what might be beneath the hood of attraction. More difficult, I think, too. Nice one, Julie.

  15. Thank you for the footnote to this wonderful poem. To be perfectly honest I tend not to enjoy poetry written today that is so buried in obscure references and allusions that it reads in equivalent to the feeling of a botched root canal. That said, your poem offers a well crafted poetic window for viewing a beautiful ceremony. “We have no use for playwrights and poets, for we have
    quiet words of our own that whisper down the centuries.” Such a profound moment is really about the couple, love, and the present moment. And you express such sentiment in addition to providing just enough background information.

  16. You know, I could add to the thoughts you gave us…but what can someone truly add to a work…even the “pagan” has to take pause at the sound of amazing grace breathed through the bag pipes…and the Christian who takes pause at the beauty of your hand fasting. Bless you sweet child, artist of this world!

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