Bottomless pits. There’s one in Castleton,
and stout upholders of our law and order
one day thought its depth worth wagering on
and borrowed a convict hush-hush from his warder
and winched him down; and back, flayed, grey, mad, dumb.
Not even a good flogging made him holler!
O gentlemen, a better way to plumb
the depths of Britain’s dangling a scholar,
say, here at the booming shaft at Towanroath,
now National Trust, a place where they got tin,
those gentlemen who silenced the men’s oath
and killed the language that they swore it in.
The dumb go down in history and disappear
and not one gentleman’s been brought to book:
Mes den hep tavas a-gollas y dyr
‘the tongueless man gets his land took.’
from Collected Poems (Viking, 2007), © Tony Harrison 2007, used by permission of the author.