Nick Laird reads

Field Remedy

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Here's the thing:
                                your lands will spring to life again
if blight or curse is set on them through poisoning
or witchery or worse--but only if
you follow me faithfully in this.
            At night, before the dawn, rise and spade
four turfs from the edges of your acreage
and mind precisely whence you take them.
           Then obtain some honey, oil and barm
and a drop from every milch that pastures on your fields,
and a splinter from the trunk of every species of the trees
that grow upon your holding--except for hardwood beams--
and scratchings from the plants you have which have a name, 
apart from buckbean.
                               Then add a stir of holy water
to the crock and drip, drip, the mixture
carefully upon the belly of the sods, and say,

                                Widen, heighten multiply,
                              and fill this earth onto its limit.
                                   Be blessed in the trinity   
                               of father, son and sacred spirit.

Recite the Paternoster, and afterward
transport the sodden turfs to church,
and pay the priests to say four masses
and let the clods' green surfaces
be turned toward the alterpiece,
and let them then be carried to your acres--

but before you rest the turfs back in their scars,
have four crosses carved from the rowan, to represent our Savior,
and on the first score Matthew's, the second Mark's, and the third Luke's,
the fourth John's, and set each crucifix
down gently in its divot, saying

    Matthew's Cross and Mark's and Luke's and the cross of Holy John.

           Then take the turfs and settle them
before sunset and say at least nine times,
Widen, heighten . . . as before, and so on, 
and repeat the Paternoster just as often,
and turn against the west, and bow nine times and say

                               Eastward I stand, and favors entreat.
                                  I call the illustrious ones to yield,
                                    the earth I beseech and each
                               of her keepers I summon to this field; 

                                    Mary, Christ, the bless├Ęd Lord. 
                                  Into your ears this glamour I pour.
                                  From my teeth I speak each word
                                 and will not fail: the blooms are sure

                                     to bloom once more, the fruits
                                       to fruit, the earth grow whole
                                      and full again, for worldly use, 
                                         for us again, still plentifull--

                                         even as the prophet tells
                                        lack of flavor on the realm
                                        till, following His fearful will, 
                                          they re-allot the alms.

Then turn yourself three times in lnie with the running sun
and stretch out on the ground and speak the litanies again,
Saying Holy, holy, holy to the end: then chant
The Benedicte with your arms out wide, and the Magnificant,
and offer to the sainted Mary, the Holy Cross, to Jesus Christ,
the Paternoster, twice.
in adoration, reverence, flattery and praise;
and for yourself, the tenantry, persuade;
and for the churls who work the soil
beneath your soles, prevail. 
           When all of that has been discharged,
take seeds from the almsmen in the churchyard,
and give them double what you took, then gather
all your ploughing gear in the one place together
and drill a hole, deep, in the crossroad of the plough beams
and pour in hallowed salve and salt, frankincense and fennel seeds.
Then set the beggar's seeds out along the body of the plough, and say

                                     Erce! Erce! Our earth-mother,

                                     let your barley and your spelt
                                     emerge in some new splendor.
                                    Let your emmer and your wheat 
                                     rise up straight-backed forever. 

                                    Let crops crop, and seeds seed,
                                   and the yield yield to me. Let God
                                      and every saint in heaven grant
                                    my acres fortified against all slant

                                   adversaries, their foul goetic means, 
                                    their demonry, their one-eyed spite, 
                                         the sortilege and jealousy
                                     abroad like roches in the night. 

                                    I pray to Him who made this place
                                        no woman deft in conjuration
                                     or man adept in talk and cunning
                                     may halt the words I here unloose.

Then plough the plough, and break the furrow, saying

                                     I praise the earth, the turf I hail,
                                       the silt I stirred up I applaud;
                                    the sod, the clod, the dirt, the soil
                                       the loam and clay I dig I laud.

                                     I praise the use we put its fruits to,
                                     commend provender, vittles, vivers,
                                       whatever's lowered in on hook to
                                     hang and blacken in the smokehouse,

                                     whatever's threshed or dried or milled
                                    whatever's plucked or picked or caught,
                                        whatever's raw or boiled or killed, 
                                          I consecrate, I celebrate, I eat. 

Then take flour of every make and bake a loaf to fit
your hands, kneading it with sacred water and a little milk
before you stow it in the furrow, saying

                                        Let vines incline and salmon churn
                                                the suface of the lough. 
                                        Let wheat-fields saw in sun-warmed 
                                            breezes bearing seeds aloft.

                                         Ours is the earth, and consecrated
                                        in the name of Him who loved so much
                                         He made the land on which we stand
                                                and skies to turn above us.

                                             May He forgive enough to grant
                                           what's inside the clay comes good.
                                             May He rain, and may He shine
                                              and may He send forth shoots.

Then say thrice,
Widen, heighten, multiply . . . and remember
to do all this in the name of our Father
and the Son etc., Amen,
and then repeat the Paternoster another three times again.

Listen to John Niles read "Field Remedy" in its original Old English

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