A Wiltshire Tale: an excerpt

Read an extract of A Wiltshire Tale by musician Nick Harper and journey through Wiltshire’s history, landscape and wildlife.


By Nick Harper

A wiltshire tale Photo by Lily Harper



Fleets of Bedford Rascals make like shepherds for the border

Bringing treats and tasty parcels past the grasp of law and order

To a man who mows a meadow just a mile or so from Marlborough

With his silo bins of psilocybin hidden underwater.

Moonraking making merry modern mirthful smirking mortals

As crop circle tourists circle searching for the perfect portal

And one per-centers hurtle on in bounty laden Bentleys;

The centre of their world’s beyond this county evidently.


Here Farmer Giles smiles gently ‘gainst a stile as if a sentry

His dog the vale air snorts a-plenty, faithful four and twenty,

Who hackles up and means to bark, but checks his master’s feelings lest

He puts to flight the figure who approaches o’er the crest

For neither know nor friend nor foe like this unbidden guest

Who settles there the stile his chair and utters this bequest:


“I am that man they call Nicholas Flamel who cannot die;

Quicksilver streams immortal dreams between you and my eye.

For I was here many a long, long year before big belly oak was a sapling

From the hill-fort down to the village green I saw the tribal teams a-grappling

Where Merlin’s mound bound magic in the chalk down ground and the causeway side,

Where the white horse rides in the bright night sky when the Bourne is high and wide,

Where was a hill hand-harrowed with the marrow of the barrow and the megalith henges aligned.

Now golf course buggies caddy daddies to the sand and the modern day tumuli.


Where Romans dropped their coins in wells and lit candles for their friends.

They came, they saw, they left and burnt the sandal at both ends.

This shire, the spear of Alfred’s Wessex put the Danelaw’s men to run,

Lashed from here to Essex with rock hard cakes and the English tongue.


Where Templars sharpened swords of steel on standing sarsen stones,

Where the wind cries ‘Myrtle!’ round Hangman’s tree and the old oak gibbett moans.

Once again crusaders train on the Bustard plain to flatten Saracen homes

With broadband waistline uptown download chat room ring tone ‘phones.”


And there at last he stopped and cast a graven eye at dog and man

And he says with weary, “I wish no more to live beyond what mortals can.”

And he reached down deep in his cloak and he offered up a pebble in his open hand

And he said, “Here have this, the stone that grants a never-ending span.”


Hear the rest of A Wiltshire Tale as Nick Harper recites the poem at Salisbury Arts Centre on Friday 14 and Saturday 15 September. A Wiltshire Tale is a Wiltshire Creative production. For more information or tickets, click here or call 01722 320333.

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