A Strange Stone with a Strange History. An Essay by Michael Bloor
One of the most striking exhibits in the National Museum of Scotland is an eight foot, two ton, twelve hundred year-old, intricately carved slab of sandstone – the Hilton of Cadboll Stone, a Pictish standing stone originally from Easter Ross, in the north of Scotland. The Picts left many such standing stones dotted across Scotland and, despite generations of scholarship, they remain in many respects a mysterious people.
Walk a ways with me, here by the Saugus River and the Old Iron Works, where I played as a boy, where arethusa bulbosa (dragon’s mouth orchid or swamp pride) waits for spring and new reeds to hide the young of red-winged blackbirds, where indentured Scot servants worked off their passage, where Captain Kidd brought his treasure to bury on Vinegar Hill (not found yet by boy or man), all leading me to say: The Hour Falling Light Touches Rings of Iron (at the First Iron Works of America, Saugus, MA): You must remember, Pittsburgh is not like this, would never have been found without the rod bending right here, sucked down by the earth. This is not the thick push of the three rivers’ water hard as name calling… the Ohio, Allegheny, and the old Monongahela, though I keep losing the Susquehanna. This is the Saugus River, cut by Captain Kidd’s keel, bore up the ore barge heavy the whole way from Nahant. Mad Atlantic bends its curves to touch our feet, oh anoints. Slag makes a bucket bottom feed iron rings unto water, ferric oxides, clouds of rust. But something here there is pale as dim diviner’s image, a slight knob and knot of pull at a forked and magic willow. You see it when smoke floats a last breath over the river road, the furnace bubbling upward a bare acidic tone for flue. With haze, tonight, the moon crawls out of Vinegar Hill, the slag pile throws eyes a thousand in the shining, charcoal and burnt lime thrust thick as wads up a nose. Sound here’s the moon burning iron again, pale embers of the diviner’s image loose upon the night. Oh, reader, you must remember, Pittsburgh is not like this.