The Small Stone Mill

(Ireland, in the Year of Our Lord 1649) 

The sun was low when we entered the village.
The small stone mill still stood, I saw,
the gurgling rush of the stream still turning
its wooden wheel, and that still turning the mill-stones in the dark within.
The forward rushing of the stream,
the low, dull rumble of the turning stones;
no other sound.
But when we left there came to us the gentle rustling
of corn shifting in the evening breeze,
and the stirring of small birds
up in the trees, as though all was well… that
nothing had happened here.
That all the small thatched homes had not been burned
down to the ground, and smoke arising from them still;
that there were no torn men and women and little ones
lying in their blood upon the grass;
that the little church was not a blackened, empty shell;
that the friar in his bloodied frock of black and white
was not swinging, slowly swinging, from the lintel of its door.
And all the while, the unheeding water
gurgled beneath the wheel, and the wheel turned.
There was the quiet rustle of the corn,
and the stirring of the birds up in the branches,
and from within that small stone mill
the rough rumble, the grinding of the stones, turning,
turning on their own, with no man tending them.

From ‘Journeys in Time’

11 thoughts on “The Small Stone Mill

  1. Poignant – incredibly powerful and touching. The repetition, the gentle pastoral language, and the image produced in the first half and in the last lines intensify and simultaneously almost belie the horror of the event described.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Roma; that’s what I strove for. Yes – the religious foreign fist in Ireland, from Drogheda to Connemara. This piece is modelled on a short passage in ‘Seek the Fair Land’, the first book of Walter Macken’s Irish trilogy.


  2. The gentle description of the mill and its stream, so reminiscent of Crwys, and of the whispering of the corn and the birds in the trees, which begins and ends the poem, provides a foil for the horror within, a horror and fury which the passing of the centuries almost totally fails to assuage.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jacydo. What happened in Ireland should never be forgotten – yet humankind has still not learned its lesson.


  3. The poem was every bit as col-running as the mill stream itself. It allowed me to understand just how much colder is the inhumanity it depicts. Wonderful work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Hugh. I’m glad you liked the poem, and that it had the effect intended. Your comment is very much appreciated.


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