Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Brightling lambs

Two artists, Geraldine Swayne and Jude Montague, visit Brightling village early morning to see Mad Jack Fuller’s pyramid and are greeted by lambs and a budding spring day.

During lambing season, on an early April morning, to see pastoral English countryside evokes feelings of a rural life of fresh eggs, fresh air and a fresh year. The graveyard around Mad Jack Fuller’s pyramid memorial in the Thomas à  Becket churchyard was thronged by mother and baby sheep.

Mad Jack endowed many follies to the area around Brightling. But he lived from an inheritance that came from slavery and he was a parliamentarian and anti-abolitionist and spoke out for slave-ownership.

The visit put me in mind of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, the charming trust of the baby lambs brought that contrast of an idyll of village green and the terrible experiences of slavery to mind.  When reading first-hand accounts of being a slave the words invite you onto a dreadful emotional roller coaster. Accounts of children born into slavery in particular expose the acute unjust experience of slavery and it seems hard to imagine anyone could oppose its abolition, however much money they were making after it. I enjoy the buildings, the follies and would like to see more for their magical aura in the Sussex spring, but as a kind of emotional offset I felt I had to read the testament of a woman who had endured a life as a slave.

The former slave Mary Prince related her life experiences which were published as a testament to help in the fight for abolition. I found it very moving, but beware the stories included are very distressing.


The History of Mary Prince (1831)


Brightling Lambs

Two women twisting up a hill
Step by one by two,
up we go this morning
to where the lambs are new.

Oh little lamb, o little lamb –
a field of faces new,
running up to greet us.
Your mother’s hungry too.

There’s food for you, little lambs,
we smile. The day is new,
your innocence shines in sunlight,
this morning’s bright for you.

Oh little lamb, o little lamb
For you we sing this song
Blue painted on your back
– number twenty one.

But wary, mother’s wary
we might do you harm.
She carries herself over the right
and leaves us looking on.

News is pain. Our radio
is switched off for the time.
Nuclear power plants
attacked – yet here seems fine

where the slaver went to sleep
in pyramid of stone.
These green tufts of grave grass
are your safest home.

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Posted 21:49 Sunday, Apr 21, 2024 In: Heritage

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