It was in her ancestry,
the longing to tend and herd.
Being the daughter of a shepherd
she knew why Arcadia pulled her.
Knowing her family began there,
she longed to return to her spirit land,
to deep harmony and highlands,
a vision of unspoiled wilderness.
To restore a branch of her family tree
and move in peace upon its mountains.
Home may be where the heart is,
yet hiraeth was calling her soul home.
Arcadia, a poetic shaped space,
where roots reach deep into the earth.
Isolated from her ancestors,
she dreamt of tending this land
hundreds of miles away.
A land filled with the scent of sheep,
ancient stone circles
and fast flowing waters.
The land spoke to her and she to the land.
If the South was her motherland,
then the North was her fatherland
and it was time to go home.
Long after leaving the farm,
her calling to care for and heal
the lame and lost ones,
came as no surprise to the daughter.
Far from a life that was more real.
Far from a circle of shepherds.
A liberated sheep in a post shepherd world,
inhabiting a time of solitude,
until she followed her bliss
to the Lakeland beauty
and rain washed hills.
From a world unmoved by the temptations
of a chaotic, empty city life,
Arcadians had virtuous souls.
They saw the wickedness of the city
and returned to the fells, all the wiser.
The daughter dreamt of a kingdom
that grew close to the heavens,
where she could honour her ancestors
and the holy wisdom of mountains.
Where each hill, tree, crag and cloud
was not a lifeless body,
but a precious friend to her.
In the fabled land of Arcadia,
poets push poems into the ground
and everything conspires to make this place
a heavenly dwelling for shepherds.
No beauty here could ever fade,
in whatever season.
Shepherds learn first and foremost
they are servants,
not seeking recognition
in their role of humility and service.
Such noble savages the shepherd-poets,
whose heartbeat shepherds the flock.
On the way the daughter learnt
that parts of her must die.
She was to shed beliefs not needed
for the road home would not be easy.
Shepherded by sharp pain and great joy
she weathered turbulent seas,
blind prophets and raging monsters.
There was no escaping the journey
and yet to fail
meant she would never fully live,
as she moved from the world of action
to the world of contemplation.
To deny her inheritance
had been part of her journey.
She rejected her father’s farm,
instead taking to the seas
and staying there for forty years,
before hiraeth called her home.
Endlessly she licked her wounds,
sick with sorrow,
before this salty shepherd could see
each lamb’s shimmering soul.
At last she discovered word-pollen
to infuse her own and others hearts.
For, to reclaim her ancestral way of life,
she had needed first to learn many things.
How to befriend and comfort
the hurt and broken ones.
How to bravely fight off her enemies
and bring back the wandering.
How to carry each lamb close to her heart
and know the names of all sheep.
How to guard and watch over her flock,
when to call them to shelter.
How to restore, revive, and refresh
each ewe with wisdom and wonder.
To do this she was told as a child,
her apprenticeship would last until sixty.
She would need trusty dogs,
for it would take great faith to reach Arcadia
and earn the respect of other shepherds.
“The goddess Diana will lead you there
and then your story will begin.”
Yet even in the dark of night,
on reaching five years of age,
she understood her calling
for she was also the moon’s daughter,
a woodland child.
These days, standing beside the oak,
the shepherd of the hills
surveys her flock with wonder.
Shepherd and sheep, spiritual guides,
companions on an ancient path,
protectors of each other.
Long ago she wrote down the dream
of becoming shepherd to another flock.
Now, we follow her footsteps,
watching the shepherd’s daughter
search for truth and beauty
and her way back to the wild feminine.
Let us rest here, admire the view,
drink in the natural world,
align our soul with Mother Nature.
Let us explore for a moment
the stories of our heritage
and know that Arcadia truly exists
in the northern lands of our isle.
Far from the maddening crowds
and pavements of gold.
A place where we can dream of wild things,
accept rebirth as our spiritual toll
and know we journey home.
From wounded child to whole healed woman,
returning to Eden at the dawn of life,
she learnt her story was holy.
A two-eyed story, one inner, one outer,
which brought her to wholeness.
Although we are here at the end,
the tale of the shepherd’s daughter
has only just begun.
For high upon a hilltop,
beside the shoemaker’s daughter,
she stands bravely to meet her fate,
calling the soul home.
Copyright © Deborah Gregory 2018
Image Credit: William-Aldophe Bouguereau
The Shepherdess (oil painting) 1873