Friday, May 09, 2008
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Philip Larkin's great poem, Church Going, was very much in my mind yesterday as we visited this sad, quiet church in the midst of its orderly, green graveyard, still mown and tended but with a creaking iron gate which is obviously little used and this grim little warning note on the door (you can read it if you click on the photo)
The gravestones told of lives bound into a close community - the blacksmith, the soldier killed on The Somme, the soldier who died - why? - in 1919. And one huge stone seemed way out of proportion to the small life it commemorated, but perhaps symbolised the enormity of the loss of a six-year-old son. Actually, there were many, many stones which told of infant death; we thought of the parents coming to church every week past their graves and wondered if the community was a comfort to them, if death was any easier to bear when so many died at what we would consider an early age.
I don't know when the congregation of this church finally closed its doors and boarded up the windows. There was no sign of vandalism; it was merely empty and sad. But I like old graveyards where the birds sing and mortality seems comprehensible - If only that so many dead lie round.