Quotations about Stonehenge

What we now call Stonehenge stands on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire at Latitude 51° 11′ North, Grid Reference SU 122 421 on the Ordnance Survey. Its site today is a triangle of 46.9 acres bounded on two sides by roads, the A303 and A344, and on the third by the Larkhill Track. It is owned by the state and administered by English Heritage, a government-funded agency. At this point we come, almost, to the end of the uncontested facts. This greatest of all British stone circles has been, for many centuries, a ruin, but a ruin of what exactly nobody knows.

Rosemary Hill, ‘Stonehenge’

You can build anything in half a millennium - I don’t care how far you choose to drag your bricks. Furthermore, the astronomy embodied in Stonehenge is not fundamentally deeper than what can be discovered with a stick in the ground.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, ‘Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries’

Pile of Stone-henge! so proud to hint yet keep Thy secrets, thou that lov’st to stand and hear The Plain resounding to the whirlwind’s sweep, Inmate of lonesome Nature’s endless year; Even if thou saw’st the giant wicker rear For sacrifice its throngs of living men, Before thy face did ever wretch appear, Who in his heart had groaned with deadlier pain Than he who, tempest-driven, thy shelter now would gain.

William Wordsworth, Guilt and Sorrow or Incidents upon Salisbury Plain

The Stonehenge that people see today is not a ‘fake’ created in the 20th century, as a number of recent media reports have implied. Nor has English Heritage been seeking to conceal the fact that restoration work was carried out to the monument over the last century.

English Heritage, Press Release, 2001, 11th January 2001 - English Heritage declares Stonehenge ‘is not a fake’


Johnny Ramone, 3rd June 1977 - the Ramones visit Stonehenge. Johnny stays on the bus

Come thither, and find them as prodigious as any tales I ever heard of them, and worth going this journey to see. God knows what their use was: they are hard to tell, but yet may be told.

Samuel Pepys, 11th June 1668 - Samuel Pepys visits Stonehenge

Oh, Salisbury Plain is bleak and bare, — At least so I’ve heard many people declare, For I fairly confess I never was there; — Not a shrub nor a tree, Nor a bush can you see: No hedges, no ditches, no gates, no stiles, Much less a house, or a cottage for miles; — It’s a very sad thing to be caught in the rain When night’s coming on upon Salisbury Plain.

Richard Barham, ‘The Dead Drummer’, from the Ingoldsby Legends 15th June 1786 - Matcham meets ‘the Dead Drummer’, possibly

Now we were arrived at Stonehenge, indeed a stupenduous monument, appearing at a distance like a castle ; how so many and huge pillars of stone should have been brought together, some erect, others transverse on the tops of them, in a circular area as rudely representing a cloister or heathen and more natural temple, is wonderful. John Evelyn, Diaries, 22nd July 1654 - diarist John Evelyn visits Stonehenge

Yeah, I could come here every day, you know I would come here and just kind of sit, if it wasn’t like a monument, I’d sit on one of these rocks and I’d just watch the sun rise. It would really cleanse your mind Barack Obama, quoted by Timoth Daw 5th September 2014 - President Barack Obama visited Stonehenge

Salisbury Cathedral and its neighbour Stonehenge are two eminent monuments of art and rudeness and may show the first essay and the last perfection in architecture Samuel Johnson, Letter to Mrs Thrale, 9th October 1783 - Samuel Johnson gives his opinion on Salisbury Cathedral and Stonehenge ·

In a ceremony to mark the handing over of Stonehenge, Sir Alfred Mond, the First Commissioner of Works expressed the gratitude of the nation and said:

This ceremony take place at a time which is perhaps a turning point in the history of our country. After four years of anxiety, toil and peril we see at last the sun of victory shining over the horizon. It is a good augury. Our ancestors have worshipped the sun when it rose. We today can turn our eyes to the sun of victory won so gallantly by the men who have gone out and fought and died for us

Sir Alfred Mond, Commissioner of Works, Speech on Stonehenge being gifted to the nation, 1918, 26th October 1918 - Stonehenge gifted to the nation

The axis of Stonehenge was originally determined by the sun’s rising and setting during summer and winter solstices, when symmetrical movements of shadows must have been something to behold. But even visiting at another time of year, I feel as if I were in a languorously turning kaleidoscope. The stones provide a medium through which we perceive the landscape. We emerge, entranced by the expanse around us, attentive to its details. The site reveals the setting; the setting, the site.

Edward Rothstein, New York Times article, 2014 Stonehenge at Dawn, Inside the Circle - The New York Times <!– When any work seems to have required immense force and labor to effect it, the idea is grand. Stonehenge, neither for disposition nor ornament, has anything admirable; but those huge rude masses of stone, set on end, and piled each on other, turn the mind on the immense force necessary for such a work. Nay, the rudeness of the work increases this cause of grandeur, as it excludes the idea of art and contrivance; for dexterity produces another sort of effect, which is different enough from this. Edmund Burke, in A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757)

Every age has the Stonehenge it deserves-or desires. Jacquetta Hawkes, in God in the Machine, Antiquity 41 (1967)

“To all those questions beginning “Why?” There is but one short, simple and perfectly correct answer: We do not know and shall probably never know.” RICHARD ATKINSON, 1956

Stonehenge, where the demons dwell Where the banshees live and they do live well Stonehenge, where a man’s a man And the children dance to the pipes of Pan. Spinal Tap, in This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

Our Soveraign here above the rest might stand; And here be chose again to rule the Land. These Ruines sheltered once His Sacred Head, Then when from Wor’ster’s fatal Field He fled; Watch’d by the Genius of this Royal place, And mighty Visions of the Danish Race, HisRefuge then was for a Temple shown: But, He restor’d, ‘tis now become a Throne. John Dryden, From Chorea gigantum, or, The most famous antiquity of Great-Britan [sic], vulgarly called Stone-Heng, standing on Salisbury Plain, restored to the Danes by Walter Charletontonehenge, where the demons dwell

There was a feeling of recognition, as of meeting an old friend, which comes to us all in the face of great artistic experiences. I had the same experience when I first heard an English folksong, when I first saw Michelangelo’s Day and Night, when I suddenly came upon Stonehenge or had my first sight of New York City – the intuition that I had been there already.

Ralph Vaughan Williams

— “A Biography of Ralph Vaughan Willians,” (1964) p. 30; cited by Ursula Vaughan Williams

Stonehenge was built possibly by the Minoans. It presents one of man’s first attempts to order his view of the outside world. Stephen Gardiner

It is indeed immensely picturesque. I can fancy sitting all a summer’s day watching its shadows shorten and lengthen again, and drawing a delicious contrast between the world’s duration and the feeble span of individual experience. There is something in Stonehenge almost reassuring; and if you are disposed to feel that life is rather a superficial matter, and that we soon get to the bottom of things, the immemorial gray pillars may serve to remind you of the enormous background of time. Henry James

Anyone who has lived through an English winter can see the point of building Stonehenge to make the Sun come back. Alison Jolly

Thou noblest monument of Albion’s isle!

Whether by Merlin’s aid, from Scythia’s shore,

To Amber’s fatal plain Pendragon bore,

Huge frame of giant-hands, the mighty pile

T’ entomb his Britons slain by Hengist’s guile:

Or Druid priests, sprinkled with human gore,

Taught ‘mid thy massy maze their mystic lore:

Or Danish chiefs, enrich’d with savage spoil,

To Victory’s idol vast, an unhewn shrine,

Rear’d the rude heap: or, in thy hallow’d round,

Repose the kings of Brutus’ genuine line;

Or here those kings in solemn state were crown’d:

Studious to trace thy wondrous origine,

We muse on many an ancient tale renown’d. Thomas Wharton, Written at Stonehenge