This next verse grew out of the experience of sitting quite alone in the tenth-century church of the title, and becoming conscious of the previous ages and of all those who had sat where I was sitting. Technically, the structure of the verse is an extension of the 'near rhyme' popularised by the First World War poet, Wilfred Owen.

IN KING'S NORTON CHURCH

Ponderous in age, the church's body leans
On bent and crippled pillars; the chill air
Charged with the centuries' dust, weighs on the sense
And leaden silence presses on the ear.
My mind is heavy with the weight of dust,
The dust I am, the dust I am to be.
It was no burden on my grandsire's mind;
He laid his grave and funeral garments by
And here he came for comfort; comfort found,
Knew himself mortal, and prepared to die.

But in these days man's not in God's mould cast;
He's bond-slave to his nurture and his genes,
Compound of chemicals, a random list,
Given for convenience a name like Jones.
Real for a space between the dark and dark,
A transient and predictable machine,
Then, obsolescent, slid to the retort
With electronic anthem, and the shine
Of candle-imitating lamps, and the sad rite
Of a commercial and a sordid shrine.

We cannot altogether set at naught
The chemicals, genetics, and the Freud;
They are predictable, as God is not,
But, God in Heaven, they make a bitter food
Regurgitated in the wastes of night
When finitude's the horror we must face
When ignorance, not knowledge, is Man's blight,
And shibboleths and creeds will not suffice.
I covet then that older, clearer sight,
That pearl he held to be beyond all price.

W.G.S. 1975


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