Listening to the recordings made 40+ years ago it took my mind back to my younger days when my parents had a reel to reel machine and I'd watch the tape on the spools increase or decrease depending on which direction they were going. Somewhere in the recesses of a box at home are recordings my parents made on their machine of Christmas parties and so on. My father was a great one for recording events on tape. I must retrieve them and find out who or what is on there. Many of those I guess will sadly be long gone to the great audio machine in the sky.
I love old technology and using this machine at work was joy. All moving parts, easy to work out how it works, no manuals or complicated handsets, or Windows XP programmes to crash. Just a mechanical machine, some spools and a tape. Not all of the past was good, but I think we have lost something of the simplicity of life with the arrival of ever more complex computers. I love computers, after all I'd not be able to blog if we still had pencil and paper, but just now and again using something which is simple is a joy.
Speaking of the past, while researching subjects on Greenland this week I discovered, there is a culture called the Dorset culture. The Dorset culture (also called the Dorset Tradition) was a Paleo-Eskimo culture around (500 BC - AD 1500) that preceded the Inuit in North America. and why were they called the Dorset culture? Well in 1925 they were discovered in Cape Dorset, Nunavut, by anthropologist Diamond Jenness.
And so as this is a blog about Wessex, an area Thomas Hardy created as he lamented the passing of the old ways, I found this by a Canadian poet, the late Al Purdy who wrote a poem entitled "Lament for the Dorsets" This poem laments the loss of their culture and describes them and their end. Need I say more.
Lament for the Dorsets (Eskimos extinct in the 14th century A.D.)
Animal bones and some mossy tent rings
scrapers and spearheads carved ivory swans
all that remains of the Dorset giants
who drove the Vikings back to their long ships
talked to spirits of earth and water–
a picture of terrifying old men
so large they broke the backs of bears
so small they lurk behind bone rafters
in the brain of modern hunters
among good thoughts and warm things
and come out at night
to spit on the stars
The big men with clever fingers
who had no dogs and hauled their sleds
over the frozen northern oceans
awkward giants..........................killers of seal
they couldn’t compete with the little men
who came from the west with dogs
Or else in a warm climatic cycle
The seals went back to cold waters
and the puzzled Dorsets scratched their heads
with hairy thumbs around 1350 A.D.
– couldn’t figure it out
went around saying to each other
'What’s wrong? What happened?..............
Where are the seals gone?’
Twentieth century people
executives of neon death
warmakers with things that explode
– they have never imagined us in their future
how could we imagine them in the past
squatting among the moving glaciers
six hundred years ago
with glowing lamps?
As remote or nearly
as the trilobites and swamps
when coal became
or the last great reptile hissed
at a mammal the size of a mouse
that squeaked and fled
Did they realize at all
what was happening to them?
Some old hunter with one lame leg
a bear had chewed
Sitting in a caribou skin tent– the last Dorset?
Let’s say his name was Kudluk
carving 2-inch ivory swans
for a dead grand-daughter
taking them out of his mind
the places in his mind
where pictures are
He selects a sharp stone tool
to gouge a parallel pattern of lines
on both sides of the swan
holding it with his left hand
bearing down and transmitting
his body’s weight
from brain to arm and right hand
and one of his thoughts turns to ivory
The carving is laid aside
in beginning darkness
at the end of hunger
after a while wind
blows down the tent and snow
begins to cover him
After 600 years
the ivory though
is still warm
© Al Purdy, 2000