Proud of Preston

Belisama:

Proud of Preston heed my entry
Hear the voice of ancient memories
Hearts purloined by Roman sentries
Like a river shining bright.

Proud of Preston born free traders
Made by commerce and hard labour
Merchants gilded artists favored
Like the Brigantes warred in tribes.

Mechanics shift the scene of battle
Raise the red brick smog industrial
Cording hearts like twisted material
On the wheels of the cotton lords.

Step the Chartists to the engines
Pull the plugs release the tension
The rioters face the sentries
Dye the river dark with blood.

Grey arise the business faceless
Fake fulfillment for the faithless
Mass the market for the tasteless
Selling life for capital.

High in the stone fortress
The sentries hold their rule
Beyond the mall and office
Do you hear a river call?

Proud of Preston I have carved you
In my sweeping spirit formed you
Through your veins floods dazzling water
My Setantii shining bright.

Will you hearken to my entry
Drown false dreams in ancient memories
Will the proud of Preston
Like a shining river rise?

*Belisama is the goddess of the river Ribble, which forms the southern boundary of the city of Preston, Lancashire in northern England. Her name is Gallo-Brythonic and means ‘Most Shining One’ or ‘Most Mighty One’.

**Chartism was a movement that aimed to bring about social reform by winning the vote for working men. After the House of Commons rejected the People’s Charter for the second time in 1842 protestors stormed across Lancashire pulling plugs from steam engines and turning out workers from the factories. On ‘Black Saturday’ policemen opened fire on rioters in Lune Street. Four men were killed and three badly wounded. ‘The Preston Martyrs’ Memorial’ (1992) commemorates their deaths.

***In 2012 this poem won the first Preston Guild Poetry Competition. Preston Guild is celebrated every twenty years. It was an amazing achievement to have been gifted these words by my local river goddess and to have them recognised for longevity. I would like to hope Belisama’s call to the city’s people will be remembered for many centuries to come.