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Thursday, March 03, 2011

Neil Oliver - A History of Ancient Britain: Age of Bronze

This was the fourth and last part of this BBC2 series. (See BBC History). I have the presumption to wish that historian, Neil Oliver, would get his hair cut, but I certainly admire his enthusiasm for his subject.

Tonight we left behind the Stone Age to learn of the Beaker People. Their beakers were made of copper - copper found in threads within Irish stone and extracted using high heat. This metal was fine for making beakers, but not strong enough to use for weapons. Later, Cornish tin was mined, and when combined with copper, became bronze, a metal strong enough to be made into swords.

Dr Oliver traced for us the new culture these metals wrought in Britain - social mobility, international trade, early village life. Whereas in the Stone Age status might have been conferred on the priests because of their religious mysteries, say, the people of the Age of Bronze now had status by way of their fine possessions. The Iron Age still lay ahead.

The programme for me stirred old memories of a poem by Padraic Colum, an Irish poet I admired long ago. I knew the poem as "The Woodworker's Ballad", but maybe that title is incorrect, because I search in vain on the internet for the poem or any lines from it. What I remember is this, but I suspect it contains several errors, as well as being incomplete:

The Woodworker's Ballad

All that is moulded of iron
Has led to destruction and blood,
But the things that are honour'd of Zion
Are most of them made from wood.

King Arthur had a wood table
And Our Lord blessed wood, for you see,
He worked at a wooden table
At His wonderful carpentry.
He was born in a wooden stable
And He died on a wooden tree.

all that is moulded of iron
Has led to destruction and blood,
But the things that are honour'd of Zion
Are most of them made from wood.

Note added 28th April 2011:
I've found the complete poem now. It's a lovely poem. You can find it on this page.