poetry and prose about place

Archive for the ‘carvings in stone’ Category


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I am working on my poetry manuscript ‘a glimpse of waterfalls.’ As always, I workshop some of the poems with my writing group Wolf Tree Writers. Wolf Tree has been together over thirty years and has assisted me greatly in improving my poetry.


This past week I read a poem to Wolf Tree called ‘from a window on the 3rd floor.’ In the third stanza, a gargoyle is mentioned. We talked about how a gargoyle is an ‘Old World’ (European) reference. It made me curious about gargoyles in Canada.



A gargoyle is a sculptural architectural feature used like a waterspout to transport rainwater away from the building. A gargoyle often depicts a grotesque other-world figure and also serves to frighten daemons away and remind people of the perils of doing harm. Sculptural features which look like gargoyles but which do not convey water are called grotesques.



Canada has many examples of gargoyles, occurring wherever architecture is gothic in design. There are many examples in Montreal, including on the campus of McGill University (Redpath Hall and Library), on churches (Christ Church Cathedral) and on private buildings (the Elspeth Angus and Duncan McIntyre House). The Peace Tower (Parliament Building) in Ottawa has numerous gargoyles and grotesques. For more information see



from a window on the 3rd floor


I nudge curtain, interpret

streetscape, sirens

stream down the glass

fractal paths where drops

meet and coalesce

meet and coalesce


the puddle on the cobbled street

a pool at the base of a waterfall

edged in rock and fern

candy wrappers, paper coffee cups

brick an escarpment, rain spills

from ledges of stone

edges of stone


above, a gargoyle gushes

glimpse of reckless sky

heartened, I consider

merits of solitude

building facade

pavement pulses

red and blue

red and blue



Are there any gargoyles in the architecture of your area?


All my best!!


Written by jane tims

January 13, 2021 at 7:00 am

eight days – hide and seek

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I love small sculpture.  On my eight-day trip to Ontario, one of the things I was inspired to draw was a small stone carving of a man.  He was purchased in Greece… the little carving is a modern example of a sculpture done in the Etruscan style. 

His head is down, resting on his knees, encircled by his arms.  He reminds me of the games of hide-and-seek we played as children.  For a few moments, the one who is ‘it’ covers his or her eyes and knows only the small space between knees and arms.  Then, after counting to ten, the eyes can open and perspective returns to normal.  Then it is the task of ‘it’ to hunt down companions who have hidden while he or she counted to ten.



count to ten


arms enfold head

wrapped in knees

zero perspective


count to ten, unfold

expand horizon

dark to light


seek what imps

have hidden

name them


send them home



© Jane Tims  2012


Written by jane tims

February 3, 2012 at 7:10 am

eight days – inuksuk

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Recently I was able to take eight days and visit some of my family in Ontario.  While I was there, I spent some time drawing and writing.  In the next few posts, I will show you some of these drawings and the poems I wrote to accompany them. 

The first concerns a small statuette of an inuksuk, carved in northern Canada by an artist who created a gentle, thoughtful tribute to this traditional form. 

For more information on the inuksuk, see my post for November 18, 2011, ‘monuments in stone’, under the category ‘the rock project’.





soapstone smoothed

and sculpted, carved

by a hand, skilled as ocean

salt-polish and sand

corners discovered

and shadows

edge of stone and surfaces

between solid and liquid

solid and air


©  Jane Tims  2012


Written by jane tims

January 23, 2012 at 6:51 am

a bridge for the soul

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In eleventh century Sweden, rune stones were often raised by landowners as a memorial of their accomplishments.

Jarlebanke was a landowner and a local magnate who lived in Uppland, Sweden during the second half of the eleventh century.  He took pains to ensure he would be remembered, and six stones survive of the many he ordered to be carved.

Four of the surviving stones stand at the ends of the Täby bru. The Täby bru is a ‘bridge’ or causeway marked with two rune stones at each end.

One of these stones (U127) was used in the 17th century as the threshold of the church in Täby; it now stands to the side of the church door.  The inscription (in runes) says: Iarlabanki let ræisa stæina Þessa at sik kvikvan, ok bro Þessa gærđi fyr and sina ok æinn atti Tæby allan.  This has been translated as: “Jarlebanke let raise these stones after himself, while he was living, and he made this bridge for his soul, and he himself owned the whole Täby.”

The stone depicts two serpent creatures enclosing a Latin cross.  Symbols of the old religion and Christianity are often found together on rune stones, evidence of transition in belief systems.  Jarlebanke was not taking any chances when he recognized both religions on his rune stones.  The  facimile (below) of the runes on the stone is from:


facimile of carvings on rune stone U127


a bridge for the soul

Danderyds church, Täby, Uppland


ok bro Þessa gærđi fyr and sina…

            and he made this bridge for his soul…

                                        –       inscription on a Täby bridge runestone


Jarlabanke made this bridge

for his soul

a causeway crossing marshy ground



for though he owned all Täby

he was afraid


he raised these four while living

a rare deed

the stones, of course, never care


first at the ends of the Täby bru

then at the threshold

of the south church door


the Cross tethered to old faith


best wager for passage into heaven


© Jane Tims 2003

Written by jane tims

November 21, 2011 at 8:12 am

keeping watch

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Some eleventh and twelfth century Scandanavian rune stones were established as memorials to family members.

The Bro rune stone in Uppland, Sweden, was raised by a wife, Ginnlög, in honor of her dead husband, Assur.  It also commemorates the building of a bridge (a causeway across marshy ground) in memory of Assur.

The stone is carved with two serpent bands, around an ornamental cross.  It says that Assur kept watch with a comrade Gæitir, as part of the Víkinga vorđr, a local defense force against Viking raiders.  The photo below is taken from:

Beginning in the 8th century, Viking raids were carried out regularly in England and Ireland.  Two well-known raids were on the monasteries at Lindesfarne in England (793 AD)  and Glendalough in Ireland (834 AD).

In the first stanza of the poem below is a poetic form called a ‘kenning’.  The ‘kenning’ is a figure of speech using two or more words to convey an idea or image.  It is usually associated with Norse and Anglo-Saxon poetry.  For example, ‘silver sun’ is a kenning for ‘moon’, and ‘summer smoke’ is a kenning for the windborne seeds of milkweed.

'summer smoke' of Rough Hawkweed (Hieracium scabrum Michx.)


keeping watch

                        the Bro Stone, Uppland


          bitter is the wind this night

         which tosses up the ocean’s hair so white

          merciless men I need not fear

          who cross from Lothland on an ocean clear

                                         – Irish monk, 8th century



on a calm night

under the shine of the silver sun

the shadow-self of dragon

square sail, glint of gold

swords polished and drawn



these are signs:

     blue sky

     the white belly of a gull

     lifted on the thickness of air

     stalks of milkweed bent

     their summer smoke pushed inland



no fear tonight

the wind bitter

the ocean tossed

Gætir, new leader of the watch

may sleep

I warm my hands

in Assur’s cloak, now mine

today I raised a bridge

and this sad stone

to my husband

my Víkinga vörđr

my protector from the raid



bitter this night

but safe

no dragon-kind

from the Danish shore

yet will I watch

listen to the whisper of milkweed stems

rumors of Lindesfarne

and Glendalough

where the coil of a serpent

may strangle a simple cross   


© Jane Tims 2004

Written by jane tims

October 15, 2011 at 4:58 am

the stone between farms

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How do you show the boundary line between you and your neighbor? 

At Ågersta Village in Uppland, Sweden, is a rune stone positioned to mark a boundary between two properties.  The stone is carved with two serpent creatures entwined, their heads in profile.  Each has two sets of legs, the forelegs strong, and the rear legs weak and helpless. 

The stone was carved by Balle, a frequent carver of rune stones in Sweden, and raised by Vidhugse, in memory of his father.  The boundry, established in the twelfth century, showed the boudary until 1856 when the property lines were finally changed!

The inscription reads, in part: Hiær mun standa stæinn miđli byia – “Here shall stand the stone between farms.”

from my imagination and not the rune stone at Ågersta Village



stone between farms

            (rune stone in Ågersta Village, Uppland)

                                                                      Do not move your neighbor’s boundary stone…

                                                                                                                      – Deuteronomy 19:14


ninth morning already

irate I rise

gather my tools

trudge to the hillside


stone waits for me, Balle

(master carver of runes)

shadows pulled into dragon

compete with guidelines

‘what is not’ more complete than ‘what is’


another fair day

Vidhugse to the west and south

Austmadr to the east 

surely their bickering over boundaries

will cease


by noon the sun

embroils the rock

streaks my brow with sweat

floods the serpent creature’s clever eye

lip lappets drip


mosquitoes dither about

the creature’s profile acquires

the look of an insect head

reckless slip of the rune tool

could end its smirk


hill of rock dust

settles on my shoe

birches stir the air

odor of leaf layer

memory smell of Birka


© Jane Tims 2005

Written by jane tims

October 8, 2011 at 6:49 am

messages in stone

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In my studies in history, no topic has engaged me like the use of stone to record our human endeavors.  I have made a small study of the rune stones of Scandinavia, the stelae of Mesoamerica, and the petroglyphs of North America.

The majority of Scandinavian rune stones are found in Sweden (2,900 in Sweden, compared with 300 in Denmark, 50 in Norway and 33 on the Isle of Man). 

These stones are upright or horizontal, frequently taller than two meters and marked by rune carvers with runes and various images.  Rune stones are found scattered across the countryside and are mostly memorials, providing records of family relationships and history, community happenings and property ownership. 

The majority of rune stones were made in the eleventh century, coinciding with the gradual conversion of the people of Scandinavia from pagan beliefs to Christianity.  The transition took years, a merging of doctrine and practice from the two religions.  The majority of rune stones show some religious symbolism, usually a blending of pagan and Christian ideas. 

In the yard of an old church at Sigtuna, Uppland, is a rune stone once part of the Dominican cloister foundation. 

rune stone U379 at Sigtuna churchyard (Source: Ojan, 2009, Wikimedia Commons)

The stone was raised by a guild of merchants to honor one of their members.  The rune stone is carved with a ribbon of runes enclosing a simple pattée cross.  The facimile (below) of the carvings on the rune stone is taken from:

facimile of carvings on rune stone U379

The Dominicans are a Christian Order of mendicant monks founded in the early thirteenth century.  The monks are also called “black friars” because of their black cloaks. 

The chant in the poem below is based on the Order for Compline in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.


they too were brothers       

(rune stone at the Dominican cloister, Sigtuna) 

Frisa gildaR letu ræisa stæin Þennsa æftiR Þor [kil, gild] a sinn.

The Frisian guild brothers let raise this stone after Torkel, their guild brother. 

                                                                        – inscription on the rune stone at the cloister



we, black friars, stride

stone to stone

the measured step

of Compline

lighten our darkness

protect us

from perils of night

beside the singular stone

our voices waver

pause on the syllable

explore the octave

and the chant moves on

relief of a quiet night

perfect end to imperfect day

fearless expectation

of the grave

they too were brothers

to him, Torkel

we, Frisa, raise

this stone

ribbon of runes

cut by Torbjörn

the cross by his blade

brighten our darkness

hide us beneath

the shadow of thy wings

God bless him and keep him

Guđ hialpi and hans

© Jane Tims 2005

not a rune stone, of course, but a grave marker in a New Brunswick cemetery

Written by jane tims

September 24, 2011 at 6:38 am

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