0009 Medieval English Cathedral - Poem by Michael Shepherd
Once I had this fanciful idea of recording
the silence in each great cathedral
and marketing these...
As you pull open the worn and squeaky door
there's a strange moment of apprehension as if
you're not sure what will greet you - a fullness
or an emptiness; a football-stadium roar
or a silence; an earfull of praise or
a mindfull of questions...
but the first step inside, and a silent gasp -
it's bigger inside than outside...
and the sound of your steps soars to the high
indescribably glorious roof like a
small bird looking for an escape.
so that you'd like to sing a note or two
to hear them repeated by those
invisible angels of the echo, waiting poised
in the stoniness of the walls and roof
like the mountain cliffs and valleys
from whence the stone was dragged
and you feel an intruder into the space of history
waiting for you to find your place.
How wonderful if at this moment, history unreeled;
played itself backwards; and as the years rolled back,
the cathedral nave would fill with the quietly respectful
devout. Then back again, and the voices would be more raw,
rich with the earth they'd just been tending.
Would the praise, to our ears, sound more heartfelt?
we'll never know.
Reel back again to that almost
unimaginable scene - the walls rising, still part built;
the clambering masons, chisels singing on the stone,
lifted only a little lower than the angels
on wooden planks on slender wooden scaffold,
the squeal of pulleys, the sudden silence of tools
and the call for the master mason;
and up there where the roof is still blue-grey sky,
the occasional bird from an optimistic nest
built the year before in the part-built spire, fluttering,
searching for a crumb or two from
the mason's heady meal
as birds may wheel again over half-there walls
when please God no the roof falls in and
respectful visitors walk down the tidy gravelled path
where once the aisle was walked, bowed head and singing,
but now so neatly grassed where pews and praise once stood,
remarking out aloud or in their heart
how the silence is, still, living, there.
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