Extract from MED Theatre's play 'Childe the Hunter'



We are the clouds of the moor,

The bringers of water;

Over bog and tor

We hover

Waiting to drop our store.

In mist, in rain, or in snow

We cover the land


Or in shadow

We cast a meadow.

 At dusk we glow.

At dawn

Our yawn

Is as crimson as slaughter.

horse childe the hunter

From the MED Theatre play Childe the Hunter, performed in Manaton Parish Hall, January 1986


I am the last of my herd, a miserable deer

Bereft of companions by Childe the hunter,

That merciless man with his arrows and knife

Who has slaughtered the rest of my kind and now hunts me.

Alas for the calf inside me who’ll never see day,

Never be born to continue the hope of our line.

Rocks and hills, I cry in despair to you,

You who have harboured my birthplace, clitters and streams,

Winds, sun, sky, rain, all you elements,

But most of all to the clouds who graze these uplands

And pasture in peace with the munch of the drizzle

Unhunted, hear my call to you, hide me once more.

Backwards and forwards I’ve run in the bogs,

In the hags, in the pools, in the cleaves, in the coombes

With bleeding hooves, with froth at my muzzle –

I am tired, I am weary, I am utterly exhausted,

O help me!


We come,

We’re swirling over you

Wherever you roam,

We cover you

Wrapping your weary form

Concealing limb

In the thickness of mist,

Childe may rage and storm

But we shall resist


Keep back Childe, you reckless and arrogant human

Who dare to oppose the boundless power of the elements.

You have hunted these hills enough; their gullies are running

With blood of a herd, which was, and is now no more

Thanks to your sport, and the lengths to which you pursue it.

The mires are seething with angry revulsion,

Sick at the blood on them, streams yell out,

Even the dumb stones crack in the bitterest frosts

Not now warmed by the steaming breath of the deer on them.

Everything cries to you ‘Stop! Enough! No more!’

But you go plundering on. Childe are you deaf then?

Wrapped in this faith of your own whose creed is: kill.


Why should I fear the mist, or the clouds that condense it?

Hunting is my occupation, just as a craftsman

Spends his life on his trade and finds a reward there.

Why begrudge me my life? Mind your own business.

Could it really be the case  that a single hunter

Can make an impression on thousands and thousands of deer?

Nonsense. The land abounds in them, teems with their antlers.

Farmers are plagued by their browsing, all of whom

Look to the hunter, Childe the great hunter, to help them

Rid the land of this pest, and allow them to prosper.


Childe, you’ll regret this; keep back! keep back! we say.


You think I’ll regret it? Show me in what way.


First. I am the fog. I shall lead you a wild chase

Following the tail of your own reckless pursuit.

I’ll trick you and deceive you in so many ways

You won’t know where to turn, you unthinking brute,

Let alone where to aim the arrow when you  shoot.

And finally with the silver web I’ve spun

I’ll trap you in a bog – then where will you run?


Second. I am the rain. I shall beat on you and drench

Everything you’re wearing from your head to your toe.

I shall drive at you on ridges to wash away the stench

Of the blood-scent which trails you wherever you go.

Finally sinking in the mire’s feather bed

I’ll make the ground treacherous wherever you tread.


Third. I am the snow. I shall wall you in with drifts,

And isolate your predicament from aid.

Mine is the grey gauze of atmosphere that sifts

Lumps of cloud to powder when the soft blizzard is made.

I shall swirl down the sky under the wind’s tirade.

I shall blind you and bury you with fold after fold

And freeze you quite rigid, until you catch your death of cold.


I’ve been through such weather before and survived.

I’m not afraid of the elements – perish the thought of it.

Come on, out of my way, you substanceless ones,

You can never hope to stand up to me; look how you scatter

At one long sweep of my knife; look how I cut you

Here and there and here and there and here once again;

Look how I move through you easily, you who appear so

Threatening, gloomy and ominous on the horizon

Shaping out monsters and castles of war;

Look how powerless you are, void at close quarters.


We dazzle your eyes with the flock of our mildness,

Man with the rock black heart, whose nature’s bleakness

Is harsher than any impression of Dartmoor’s wildness.

Your single-minded so-called ‘strength’ is weakness

Unaccompanied as it seems by the virtue of meekness.

We come as soft as the wool on the backs of the moorland sheep,

Our flakes are gentle, and send the world to sleep.


Things have not been the same since I killed that deer.

Round and round I have ridden through fog

As thick as the heather, gnawed by rain

That bites with a frozen tooth, and now, when I’m lost

With bog on all sides of me, hopelessly quite

So as not to be able to move even, comes this snow

Flurrying downwards to mock me. Worst thing of all

My horse has been stugged in the mire and is useless.

Bitterly, bitterly, bitterly! Is there no hope left?

The sky has closed on me, and these are its teeth.

It howls as it tears at me.

White the snow, as white as sharp tin

Or the silver that hangs in my halls;

White, white, white – unthinkable whiteness

In the dark of winter.

What can I do? Who can I turn to?


Look how the agony starts to take.


Shall I never see heather again, never creep low

In a gully, or hide behind rocks?

Must granite be gone from my hands for me always,

Must hill-folds and flanks be for ever erased

And the course of their brooks lie obliterated

Because of this whiteness?

Shall I never scent peat at the opening of dawn

When light and smells co-mingle,

Shall I never hear vixen colouring the dark or

Taste the sea in the curlew’s crying

Because of this whiteness?

Shall I never find flowers on the heath, surprise

With my shadow fritillary butterflies

Sucking the glade’s warmth, send up a lark

Because of this whiteness?

Will pool never smile for me, dimple with trout,

Wrinkle with laughter at tickling of flies

Because of this whiteness?

Can sun never shine again for my eyes

Because of this whiteness?


1You were warned, Childe, warned; but you chose to ignore us.

You didn’t believe in the power of our threats, and now you must suffer.

And what you will suffer, you know you have brought on yourself.


Arrogant elements, I haven’t lost yet.

If you think you have triumphed, then I can assure you

You’ve got quite another thought coming. I’ve had an idea.


Still he struggles against destiny.

Still he tries to convince his spirit

He is self-sufficient, can outlast

The elements of which he is made

In a bodily form, can outdo

The Universe, which created him

Under the eyes of time, can surpass

Creation in his destruction of it.

 When will he come to his senses, see

The vanity of his arrogance,

The fatuous smallness of his boasts,

The emptiness of his existence

Apart from Nature.


Cold, cold, cold, immeasurably cold.

I am defeated. Even within my horse

Which I caught and slit open, and crawled in the side of

In spite of the stench – even inside it

The cold was too bitter and far too intense.

I am going to die. The elements win.

But what of my body? Carrion for foxes?

And even if somebody finds me, how will they know

I’m Childe and not just a tramp or a vagabond?

Childe the hunter, a man of possessions,

Worthy of burial? Carrion for ravens?

Perish the thought of it: me being spread like dung

On a field, scattered in the marshes, half-picked bones?

How can I let it be known I am worth

The trouble of  Christian burial? I have it.

Much though it hurts me – the thought of beneficence

Outside my family – a gift is the answer.

The first who finds and brings me to my grave

The Estate of Plymstock they shall have –

This I shall write on a rock. Through such means one passing

Will deem at once that I am worthy of burial.

But what can I write with?

What! Another Deer? They told me I’d ended them.

I remember that wound. Haven’t I killed you once?


You have, Childe. I am a ghost.


Why are you here?


Put your fingers into my wound, and write

The words you have just uttered in letters of my blood.

Would you had shown such charity to me!


(writing)The first who finds and brings me to my grave

The Estate of Plymstock they shall have.


Now die, and pay for the havoc you have wrought.


Vanished. Gone into the moonlight like a shimmer,

Was she delirium’s progeny, born of the cold’s

Feelingless floats of hallucination?

Yet here in front of me written in blood are the words:

‘The first who finds and brings me to my grave

The Estate of Plymstock they shall have’.

Oh, I am tired. All will to do anything leaves me.

I shall lay myself down in the snow and fade into sleep.


So he dies, and we, the clouds, retreat into the night.

Breaking back around the remote, ice-shafted moon,

Making way for the clear tomorrow, when the light

Of a shining sun will bring here trudging at noon

A band of hooded travellers to grant Childe his boon.

His wealth will pass to charity, and thence be dispersed

Down through the ages until Nature is re-imbursed.