Bearing aloft the Candelieri through the streets of Sassari
On 10th January 2016 Scotland on Sunday printed ‘Bearing Light’, a poem of mine which reflected on the recent refugee crisis in Syria and beyond. I hadn’t set out to write about that topic, but it just wouldn’t go away.
Not even five centuries can snuff out Sardinia’s
Candelieri, gratitude for the plague’s ending.
Sassari youths stagger under the precious burdens,
one per guild – cobblers, smiths – then step adeptly,
as lightning rods through crowds, to a steady drum.
We too mark borders of our trading guilds,
spheres of influence: horses ride out, banners raised,
bonfires lit. It’s pageant now: a flicker of history;
embers of memory, of pride and sacrifice. Times
pass – till son et lumière, a play of light suffices.
But still there’s darkness: nihilism, wintering,
a quenching of any kindly flame. Uprooted
from hearths, a plagued people is groping its way,
testing our boundaries of humanity; seeking
a welcome, the slightest spark of hope.
On 15th August, Feast of the Assumption of Mary, huge ‘candlesticks’ are paraded through the town. It remains the most significant festivity of Sassari in NW Sardinia.