Two hands span and branch themselves – 
lords of spears blossomed black
against the washed light of a sunless sky.

The pale timber of his legs is tender
in strength and youth, elegant in certainty.
He plants the stiff-skinned bark ...

About the poem

This poem was published in October 2016 and is featured on The Literateur website.

It was written as part of my MA Dissertation in which I examined the physical and culture clash between native Britons and Romans in Ancient Britain. The poem combines the presentation of a character and a landscape, both of which were greatly aided by the vocabulary found in Robert MacFarlane’s incredible book Landmarks. The aim was to convey the idea that we are our landscape and the landscape is us. To achieve that aim, I needed to ensure that the description of the man in the poem was rich in specifics. Without a suitable muse / model stepping forward, I chose the character of Esca from the 2011 film The Eagle. Actor Jamie Bell plays the role with quiet dignity that demonstrates a connection to his character’s heritage and the natural world. I am indebted to Bell for his role as an unwitting muse, and Kevin Macdonald’s beautiful direction of the film which meant that whenever I paused the film to make notes and gather details, every image was framed like a work of art.

By Robert Macfarlane