Over the last few weeks I've been out and about in Finistère, remote north west Brittany. I stumbled upon these ancient Maisons des Douaniers crouching vigilantly behind titanic granite boulders, overlooking the turbulent Atlantic. The story is that this part of Finistère is a wreckers' coast. These Custom's Houses, a snapshot of history, are set into the rugged coastline. They put me in mind of Sylvia Plath's haunting poem, Finisterre - This was the land's end: the last fingers, knuckled and rheumatic .... Her poem, written in 1961 shortly before her death, is disturbing and bleak. It relates to the memory of a holiday in Brittany, where the wild landscape of this place resonated with her disturbed state of mind. In it she acknowledges history, war, death and the supernatural in the form of mists, rocks and stormy seas.
Finisterre by Sylvia Plath (an excerpt)
This was the land's end: the last fingers, knuckled and rheumatic,
Cramped on nothing. Black
Admonitory cliffs, and the sea exploding
With no bottom, or anything on the other side of it,
Whitened by faces of the drowned.
Now it is only gloomy, a dump of rocks -
Leftover soldiers from old, messy wars.
The sea cannons into their ear, but they don't budge.
Other rocks hide their grudges under the water.
The cliffs are edged with trefoils, stars and bells
Such as fingers might embroider, close to death,
Almost too small for the mists to bother with.
The mists are part of the ancient paraphernalia -
Souls, rolled in the doom-noise of the sea.
They bruise the rocks out of existence, then resurrect them.
They go up without hope, like sighs.
I walk among them, and they stuff my mouth with cotton.
When they free me, I am beaded with tears.
Kerfissien at Cléder in north Finistère
Pointe de Primel, Plougasnou in north Finistère
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Paintings at Melanie McDonald Gallery
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