THEMIDSUMMER SUNRISE AT STONEHENGE.
THE falling of the summer solstice on a Sunday, con- curring with the bicycle craze and the accident of a remarkably fine moonlight night, brought an unusually large number of people together to see the sun rise over Stone- henge last Sunday morning. Possibly also the publication in the course of last year of * Mr. Edgar Barclay's very complete .
• Stonekengs and its Earthworks. With Plans and Illuttratic.ns, By Woe Barclay, B.P.B. London: D. Nutt. 199,,
and beautifully illustrated volume about the monument, helped to swell the number of visitors. Any way, the days are past when twenty or thirty people made a large attendance, and probably the numbers will increase every year, and unless some provision is made for marshalling them in reasonable order and keeping the centre of the temple and the whole line of the axis clear,—as the crowd increases in numbers it will decrease in intelligence. There was a considerable infusion of Bank-holiday humours in the complexion of the crowd last Sunday, and much more of the same sort of thing would turn the occasion into a rowdy beanfeast, from which people of refinement would rather stay away. In view of such a possibility, it would seem desirable to take steps in time for securing enough order and formality in the pro- ceedings to render it possible for people really to see that which they have come to see. It was easy enough last Sunday to secure standing ground on that part of the Earth- circle which commands the line of sight to the Sun-stone. It was possible to secure such a place, and from it to distinguish for a moment the top of the Sun-stone level with the horizon line. But it was not possible to keep this point in sight, because the whole centre of the temple was crowded with people, some standing on the grass and some on the fallen stones, whose forms very soon completely shut the Sun-stone out of view. The writer tried standing on a cart and seeing over the heads of other people, but this contrivance only raised one too high above the line of the horizon, and it was finally necessary to resign oneself to an oblique view from a point a little westward of the axis, taking it upon the word of those who had got final possession of the beet places, that the sun did actually make its first appear- ance immediately above the Sun-stone. By the time we could get into the right position, the sun had already moved a little further to the east and a little higher in the heavens. By that time, also, a slight veil of cloud through which it had shone somewhat dully at first, cleared off, and a blaze of fiery light entered the temple just as it should do under the lintels of the outer circle of " Sarsens." At Stonehenge, as elsewhere, a curious feature of the crowd is the presence of a very large number of people who know nothing—or so little that we must be excused for calling it nothing—of the significance of what they had come out to see. But yet, however little the majority of the excursionists last Sunday morning might know of the orientation of Stone- henge, of the plan of its construction, or of the various theories that divide opinion as to the time and purpose of its erection, it was obvious that everybody present was keenly interested in seeing the sun rise behind the Sun-stone, though absolutely indifferent to the shadow the Sun-stone casts,—the shadow which gives the direction of the axis and the clue to the design of the building. Noting the intent gaze with which these hundreds of people watched through the cold hour of the dawn for the return of the sun, it was impossible not to feel how close to the heart of man, in all times and in all climates, lies the allegory embodied in Sun-worship.
It is a common remark that a feeling of disappointment is almost invariably experienced on a first visit to Stonehenge. This is partly due to the vast solitude in which the monument stands. There is nothing near enough to it in any direction to furnish a standard by which to estimate the magnitude of the stones. Consequently they look much smaller than they really are, and we miss that imposing effect of immensity which everybody associates in advance with Stonehenge. Another cause of disappointment is what we must call the "reserve" of the monument. Mystery, whether vested in persons or things, has a fascination of its own, but the fascination is of a kind that is only enjoyable when the mysterious thing or person is not actually present. We all know the delight of discussing interminably a person about whom no amount of discussion brings us nearer to knowledge. And we all know also the chilly, baffled feeling that takes possession of us when we pass from such discussion into the presence of the inscrutable person. An impenetrable reserve is undoubtedly one of the striking characteristics of Stonehenge. And this reserve, however much it may increase the impressiveness of the monument as a subject of thought and speculation, certainly takes away from its impressiveness as an object contemplated by the bodily eye. We are so accustomed to the easily interpreted language—utilitarian and sentimental— of modern, mediteval, and classical buildings and monuments,
that we hardly realise how much of the impression they make on us is due to the wide range of memories and associa- tions they touch in ourselves, until we are confronted with a. monument like Stonehenge, the language of which is dead for us, and in whose presence we are reduced to the blank emotion of wonder. It is quite pathetic to see how, in the dearth of intelligible symbolism or appealing beauty, every observant visitor seizes eagerly at his or her first visit to "the Stones," upon the tenons and mortise-holes in the piers and the imposts of the trilithons and the outer circle of Sarsens, as the only features which speak to us directly of the part played by human ingenuity in the construction of the-
temple. Those knobs on the upright stones and correspond- ing sockets in the lintels which the uprights support, tell an unmistakable—albeit a very homely and practical—tale of labour for a definite and quite intelligible result. At the. moment of the summer solstice Stonehenge may, however;. be said to relax its reserve and admit us for once into its. confidence. It tells in visible signs the secret of its orienta- tion to the midsummer sunrise ; and its cold and monotonous greyness warms into colour and life as the sunlight flows in, under the lintels of the Sarsen circle, and the piers shoot
their sharp shadows over the ground. Then the stones cease- to be dead stones,—they seem to be responding sympathetically
to the influence of the Sun-god, and something of the feeling,
of the old mythology enters into the hearts of all onlookers.. Add to this touch of sentiment the solid satisfaction of having gained rough ocular demonstration of the troth of an assertion of the learned which we are incapable either of understanding in detail, or attacking critically—and you have the answer to the question that is involuntarily suggested by the presence- on the ground of a number of people who seem animated by the smallest amount possible of intelligent interest in the phenomena before them—" Why in the world have all these- people come ? " When you have once seen the sun rise
over the Sun-stone, you feel that you believe on your own account in the solar orientation of the temple; and the line of the axis once realised on the ground, the plan of the building becomes intelligible, and there is a great deal oft
pleasure to be got out of following up the elaborate yet simple theory of Mr. Barclay's book. But before we pass to Mr. Barclay's sketch of the series of festivals he imagines to have been celebrated annually at Stonehenge, or to his. theory of the time of its erection, we would give in his own.
words his very clear and helpful account of the design of the monument, confident that among our readers as well as- among last Sunday's gazers, there must be many who have- never mastered the theory of it :-
"Stonehenge is enclosed by a low circular bank with outer ditch. named The Earth-circle,' now much mutilated by carriage tracks. To the north-east is the ancient Avenue ' or Approach, whera are two outlying stones,—the ' Heel-stono ' or Sun-stone,' bows towards the temple ; the other, placed between the Sun-stone- and the temple, lies fiat with the ground, and is named the Slaughter-stone.' Two other outlying stones lie close to the- Earth-circle, opposed to two mounds, very faint and unobtrusive- features ; these are the two stones and two mounds of the Earth. circle."
Within the Earth-circle is the temple, of which- " The design consisted of an outer circle of thirty uprights. supporting twenty-eight traverse stones or lintels ; one of the. piers, in situ, is shorter than the others, which occasioned a break in the lintel ring ; so many piers remain in situ that their opening shows that when complete the circle consisted, of this number. Within this circle was another consisting- of smaller uprights. These circles contained two horse-shoe- figures, one within the other. The outer was composed of five groups of stones, each group consisting of three stones— two piers supporting a superimposed block ; these groups (the trilithons) stilt form the most imposing feature of the monu- ment; they were graduated in height, the central trilithon excelling those next to it in the same degree that these were higher than the trilithons forming the extremities of' the figure. The inner horse-shoe, like the inner circle, was- formed of small uprights; both horse-shoe figures had their- openings turned towards the Sun-stone. The outer lintel circle and outer horse shoe were composed of rocks named- ' Sarsens; brought from the neighbourhood of Avebury, about- twenty miles north of Stonehenge, where they occur in large- numbers, as a singular natural phenomenon, boulders lying. deeply embedded in the soil of the chalk downs. To the north- east of the village of Avebury the land is thickly strewn with, these boulders, found on the summits and in the hollows of the. downs. Their appearance, suggesting flocks of grey sheep, has. caused them to be named Grey Wethers '; some valleys are so.
choked with them as to be of a general grey tint. The inner circle and inner horse-shoe are composed of the foreign " Blue stones," igneous rocks. The locality from which they
were originally taken remains undetermined; experts, after microscopic examination, have affirmed that in no part of Great _Britain is there any stone to be found of the same description."
'Leaving out of account the learned few who have made a serious study of the archaeology of Stonehenge, it is almost . incredible how very few even of those who are sufficiently in- .terested in the monument to go and see it at 3 o'clock in the morning, take the trouble to arrive at the moat elementary understanding of its design, or even to grasp the important distinction between the Sarsens and the Blue-stones. Perhaps it is because it increases the mysteriousness of the monument to believe that all its stones—especially the more massive ones —were imported from abroad, that people like to ignore the fact that the Sarsens lay close at hand, and only the much smaller Blue-stones had to be brought from over the sea— moat probably from Brittany, though some geologists main- tain that specimens of the Blue-stone are found in Cornwall. As soon as we realise that only the Blue-stones, which make the smaller uprights of the inner circle and the inner horse- 'shoe had to be transported from afar, the mystery of the erection of Stonehenge is shorn of its most impracticable feature, and brought within the sphere of the calculable 'possibilities of engineering skill. Mr. Barclay rejects the theory of a prehistoric origin for the temple, and believes that we owe it to the wise policy of the Roman Governor, Agricola, who endeavoured to conciliate the native population of Britain, and to find occupation for the sons of the 'chieftains by encouraging them to build temples in which to worship the gods of their fathers according to a ritual com- pounded of Roman and Celtic customs. Mr. Barclay goes very fully and carefully into the detail of the system by which the divinities of the conquered populations were put on an equality with the gods of Rome ; and also into the still gingering customs of spring fires, May-day games, and Bel or Baal fires, Midsummer fires, harvest homes, and November fires—the seasons of which corresponded with those of the dye Roman festivals of Mercury, Apollo, Mars, Jupiter, and ,,Pluto, with which he believes the five trilithons of Stonehenge to have been connected. The thirty uprights of the outer Barsen circle he takes to represent the Roman month of thirty -days, twelve of which, with the five feast days, made the year -of three hundred and sixty-five days. And he calls up for us a picture of how probably in all those festival days as they came round, but most signally on the great midsummer festival, when Jupiter was specially honoured, p.ieec and people would have been seen advancing in gay yet solemn procession along the avenue or approach that leads up to the north-eastern opening of the temple, bringing beasts for
• sacrifice and carrying garlands of flowers. The sacrifice, which on the feast of Jupiter would probably be a bull, would be made at the very instant of sunrise, the slaughterer 'waiting by the Slaughter-stone that stands outside the temple, but nearer to it than the Sun-stone, of which the shadow projected by the rising sun, gave the line for the axis of the temple. "Any one," says Mr. Barclay, "standing
o n this line behind the Slaughter-stone, would be unable to -observe the rising sun, he being in the shadow of the Sun- stone, the Hel-stone or Covering-stone ; but being on the axis he could receive a signal for the death-stroke from an observer on the Earth-circle behind the central trilithon; and on account of the Slaughter-stone being placed obliquely with the axis, one half only of the stone would be in shadow. Thus, provided a clear sunrise, the sun would shine on the flowing blood of the victim, and this would be -counted as a propitious omen."
Whether or not Mr. Barclay's theory is the one that will 'be eventually accepted, its fullness of detail, and the scope it gives to a constructive imagination to build up a scene of picturesque significance, recommends it strongly for, at least, provisional adoption when one is going to see the midsummer sunrise. Possibly before long the managers of 'Olympia or the Earl's Court Exhibition will devise a Stone- henge entertainment with cardboard atones, a sun to be depended upon always to rise fair and clear, and a full company representing the mixed Roman and British con- gregation who worshipped on the plain in the eighties of the first century, or perhaps some enterprising educational society will send down lecturers on Midsummer morning to instruct the sightseers on the ground. We should be inclined to welcome any course that helped to furnish a little infor-
mation to visitors while on the spot, and secured the intro- duction of an influence strong enough to keep the line of the axis clear and allow the Sun-stone to be visible to gazers placed on the Earth-circle behind the remaining pier of the central trilithon, through the cleft of which, when both piers were standing, the watchman outside the temple would have seen the first touch of sunlight on the tip of the Covering- atone.