Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sic transit gloria mundi


History lies thick on the ground here. The archeological survey of the Dingle Peninsula lists 1,572 sites of historical interest, many of them thousands of years old. Shell middens, megalithic tombs, stone alignments, standing stones, souterrains, rock art, ring-barrows, promontory forts, ring forts, ogham stones, "beehive" huts, holy wells, medieval ecclesiastical sites, castles, and heaven knows what else. One can hardly take a step without stumbling over the past.

And up there on the hill behind the house the Munsterman sleeps on his bed of stone, his feet aligned to the equinoctial rising sun, presiding in ancient kingship over all this rock and sea and sky.

Or so we must imagine. The mound of earth that once covered the great stone slabs of his grave has eroded away in the wind and rain. His bones have turned to dust. All that is left is the hollow tomb, uprights and roof slabs, like a massive table set out for a feast.

The tomb is believed to be approximately contemporaneous with the great Egyptian pyramids. Whoever lay buried here did not have the resources of the pharaohs. Riches, such as they were, were likely measured in heads of cattle. But like the pharaohs, our Early-Bronze-Age countrified monarch had his eye on eternity. He sought to ally himself to the infinitely-recurring cycle of the sun. The sun still cycles. The Munsterman has blown away on the wind.