Set in stone?
On viewing the West wall of Manchester Cathedral
A first view:
Scored by aeons of weather
Scared by centuries of man.
Man and horse struggled
Through the penetrating precipitation
Of a Mancunian winter to carry that once-golden stone
Masons left their marks
Gauged with chisels, struck with hammers, polished it until smooth.
Set in stone implies ‘forever’
Yet here the ravages of time, be they made by man or Nature’s serendipity
Have destroyed those chiseled lines,
Blurred those straight edges,
Roughened those smooth surfaces until
Only scattered remnants of fine tracery peak out with blinded eyes from beneath its wretched face.
And now, like an ancient mummy the once-smooth skin is black and pitted,
A volcanic crater of aging epidermis.
A second viewing, now informed by a Father
Garbed in mockery of the knights that lie prostrate beneath our feet.
That ancient wall that spoke to me of medieval masons
Whose marks I’d traced with hesitant fingers,
Yearning to connect across the centuries,
Its marks are mutilations, wounds wrought by virtuous Victorians
Intentional disfigurements of medieval craftsmanship
By prim men in straight-laced garb
Yearning to cover the ancient disorder with modern clarity of line.
This wall, with its pock marks and scuffs bore witness to my forefathers,
Their birth, their love, their demise.
Music shrouds their spirits for
Without them I wouldn’t exist.
“That wall needs a face lift.
Cover the blemishes, obliterate the scars,” the renovators had said.
Today that white wash has flaked away into its own oblivion
Leaving the pitted West wall to conjure its own convoluted saga.