Given the heaviness of Thomas Hardy’s fiction and poetry, our family’s guide in Dorset chose to lighten things up a bit with a visit to the famous Cerne Abbas Giant or, more appropriately, “Rude Man.” The National Trust preserves this artifact:
Standing at 180 feet tall, this is Britain’s largest chalk hill figure. It is also our most controversial. Many theories surround the giant’s identity. Is it an ancient symbol of spirituality? The Greco-Roman hero Hercules? Or a mockery of Oliver Cromwell? Local folklore has long held it to be an aid to fertility. Above the Cerne Giant is a rectangular earthwork enclosure, known as the Trendle. Like the giant, the Trendle is of unknown origin, but it is believed to date back to the Iron Age. It is still used today by local Morris Dancers as a site for May Day celebrations.
Readers of Bensonian may wince or blush at what follows, but I am compelled to share the bawdy limericks by locals that our guide read to us as we beheld the Cerne Abbas Giant:
Cerne’s giant’s as firm as a rock,
And his manhood withstands any shock.
Though it freezes and rains,
He never complains.
It must be an all-weather cock!
* * *
Men are born with libidinous greed,
Though, with age, carnal force may recede,
From L.A. to Niagara
They’re hooked on Viagra
But in Cerne there is clearly no need!
* * *
My love-life has ground to a stop
Cerne’s giant makes me feel I’m a flop.
He displays the quintessence
Of lasting tumescence,
I wish it would now and then drop.