Martin Robertson

Now and Then

The Green Children of Woolpit

Over beyond the river

the children said

was the shine of sunlight,

on their side was shade.

Sound of church-bells

was often in the air.

It was a Christian country,

of that they were sure.

This came later.

When they were found

at the bottom of the pit

hand in hand

blinking upwards,

they did not speak.

It seemed that they must die,

unable to eat

anything put before them,

till someone saw the girl

nibbling a hard green

cast-out shell.

Coaxed into feeding

with raw husk and stalk

they lost some of their wildness,

learned to talk—

the boy less than the girl.

The boy did not live,

went down where they came from

through the pit of the grave,

while greenness receded

from his sister’s skin.

She grew up, and married

a man from Lynn.

But whether with the green

the memory

of that country faded

the story does not say,

nor whether her children

were common girls and boys

or brought shimmering shadows

to the griefs and joys

of life in the flat fields

under the sky’s breadth

from their mother’s dark sources

past that laboured earth.