Fotheringhay © Kevin Gardner
for Kevin Gardner
Yes, locked, of course. And once we find the key it’s comically huge, and hard to turn, but when it does, George Herbert’s century comes tumbling, sliding, singing at my phone from beams and dust and tracery and stone as fresh-cut woodwork metaphysically invites us to a pulpit. Choose which one. For preaching of the Word? Or poetry?
It’s down a bumpy track, beside a field of bumps, where a man and his manners failed. The church is just an empty frontispiece, though Cotton on the wall might help us trace a web of stories to the primal source of all our reading: whose library it was, whose books became these tombstones, how the world discovered learnedness must lose its hold.
I often come. Not like a broken king, more of a giddy pilgrim, remembering the day I took that warm untroubled hand there on the lawn at Ferrar House – profound bubbling wapentake – before they could bring his fame within the shaded panelling of Herbert and Eliot, or call upon Toomebridge to read the lesson. Lines from John.
The prologue: here he was born. A smiling head pokes out theatrically and shows us where he entered. Next scene, All Saints: cross, admire the stage-lit font they dipped him in, its lid with hand-gel left there for the hand that’s written, ‘We’re champing’. What? Until the plot’s laid bare – to camp in churches is the thing this year of strange things. Epilogue: a plaque to Dryden.
Finally, this most final name. And yet it hasn’t finished. Something in the light is darkening still. You move uncomfortably as if you felt that fetterlock gyrate up on the lantern. It’s windless. At the great absence of a fractal sky which might have set the falcon free, it’s what we cannot see and can’t return to. You must catch your flight.
11th October 2021