fulbrook

what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

In quires sing the lists of loss,
of ascote, billesley,
bickmarsh and baddesley,
of comptons, murdock and scorpion,
foxcote, fulbrook, and goldicote,
hodnell, hornburn and hunscote,
all gone where the river ran
and took the land away.
The tide of time where toiled
the village hands,
the families of the field
bent-backed, turning the sod
with the old french plough,
clay shining sheer,
bright metal on earth sheen,
the fallen wave of soil
breaking sullen,
where once the common weald was,
the flock fed on the common good,
on common land held long
and in long usage,
usufructary,
these fruits earned upon
the bloody fields of france,
these unwritten rights of man,
to share with his betters
the fruits of the land;
fallen wood for the fire,
apples for the long walk home,
after the long day
in the foul field’s clay.

Her house, a strong tower
moated,
sown with perch and carp
and embroidered with vines
(circa 1389)
hall with solar and chapel,
kitchen and byre,
until it fell to ruin
with the last of them,
only to be built again,
new stone on old,
the sumptuous gatehouse
‘bergeiney’
to overlook the new park
and hear them chase the deer
and boar to dear demise
as was his joy,
your one true love,
your darling boy.

Through the green rides
where the new grass creeps,
with campion and buttercup
the buttressed trees
shake to hooves and cries
of pursuers and pursued.
Beneath the hazel stands
half-seen house-beams sag,
and woodbine twines
the carcass of a cot.
The land is now a playground;
weekend sport
for the foolish rich.

So here I am,
cold breezes in the morning
from the winds eye,
daughter of the house
beneath a murrain of letters,
notes to myself and reminders
to pray for the poor.
For our neighbours are not
what wealth and standing decree,
but those god gives,
and in the eye of the needle,
I know I lodge half way,
but I believe prayer and charity
may avail me.

A poor man in this world
has no inheritance
but the burden of the light
of god that tells him
he is a man no different from a king,
made like him, in the image
of the king of kings,
but equipt with this knowledge
he will carry the rich man upon his back
until the day he dies,
and for this
will there not be a reckoning?
When the first will be last?

but now.
A poor man cannot toil forever
but grows old in hope
of god, and kith and kin,
that they will be kind,
that they will provide,
for the winter fields are hard
in the morning on old bones,
hoar-frost heavy, breaking the stones
where field’s smoke coughs.

beneath my window,
cottars on the dark lane
pass the park’s oak pale,
fenced out from the small ruins
of their expurgated homes,
I hear them splash in the ruts,
while i sit in my pretty chamber
descrying, delineating
all my manifest blessings.

The mills are gone,
the sluices silted that fed the wheels
that turned bread
from dead stones spinning
to alms for the poor nuns of pinley.
The full brook flows now
to no purpose but its own.
of the village all is gone
but the ghost of its memory,
the dressed stones stolen,
re-used unlike the people,
who scattered to the four winds
haunt the lanes in hope
of delivery from hunger
and destitution,
and maybe a little highway robbery
on the old stratford road,
desperate measures,
for desperate times,
and many’s the honest man
ended his days dancing
for the crowd
on gallows hill lane.

A few stones
the quarrymen found,
among the detritus
of the river’s plain,
a knight’s stone
rounded by weather,
incised maltese,
a little piece of jerusalem,
the hospitaler’s cross
buried in a green land.

The church is gone,
cold barn of souls,
that fed them bread of life,
and wine to dream
they might escape it all.
The pretty castle?
Just a foursquare scar.
An odd norman footprint
upon the swelling
silten field.
Where did they go?
The beaumonts/de neubourgs?
The ironclad invader?
They went nowhere.
They, are we.

The tower fallen now,
the strong tower of her love,
the bold protectorate,
evinced of love,
chevalric,
the heraldric quartering of kingdoms,
grafted,
the true trees of blue blood,
and after
every stone carried away
(with the kings blessing)
by ambitious compton
for his new love wynyates,
to his everlasting,
undying glory,
and the others bedamned.
Always ambition rising
from old ruins,
old stone for new houses,
old men with young dreams,
young men with old dreams.

This tower is a wonder of the world,
a miraculous thing, it directs men’s eyes
to heaven, and god’s to man, so each
might see how the other fares in this day
of troubled creation.
We lay our heads beneath the heraldic tower
open to the street, but spared the rain,
and rest, swaddled like the innocent
in the last rags of our possession.
Blanketed we rest, enfolded in love,
for there is comfort in sleep
and the little peace holy church
bequeaths us, in this demonic,
ravening world.

Everything changes.
Even the land, so enduring,
beneath the glacial grind,
the freeze frame procession
of geological time.
Landscapes change unwatched,
and a season past is always
a world away
and no revisiting.

The old path, disused,
closes
with briars and burdock
nettles and thorns,
trees weep
where good fruit falls
and lies uneaten.
No hands to pick
the fallen blessing
no voices beneath
the wayfarer’s tree.

But one moment
can seem, at least,
to redeem all others,
the moment of recognition,
the moment of love,
the moment of sudden light
upon the sullen wall,
the moment of the hawk hung
beneath the high, still cirrus,
the sun’s warmth on your back
once only,
once only,
but once and enough.
In the sky the sun streams
blessing,
and injustice?
Wherever man is,
there it shall be,
but there shall be a reckoning,
as all shall see.

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