Photo by Candia Dixon-Stuart. Poem published in October 2017 on this site.
Great Coxwell’s Barn
Off Hollow Way stands this vast, vacant barn:
huge receptacle for Cistercian tithes,
garnered from tenant farmers – a dry store,
where the granger checked accounts; did not trust
his hired servants. Here Cotswold riches
were protected from thieves and from decay.
Christ had warned disciples about decay
and storing up of surplus in a barn.
Christians were always meant to share riches
and not to extract profit from fat tithes.
The parable’s ‘fool’ was he whose whole trust
was in possessions. He had wrath in store.
Henry VIII would plunder a marked store
and most abbeys were subject to decay.
Monastic wealth was held in deep distrust.
Though Morris praised this cathedral-like barn,
Pre-Raphaelites would not restore tithes;
they venerated aesthetic riches.
We coveted colonial riches
and viewed the whole world as potential store,
compelling other countries to pay tithes;
forgetting moth and rust would cause decay.
What were the treasures we stored in our barn?
We’ll reap what we sowed: we abused faith, trust.
Joseph, in whom Pharoah had put his trust,
managed underground silos of riches
and, when his brothers came – not to a barn-
but to the pits where corn was kept in store,
did they recall they’d left him to decay
in such a space? (He who asked no tithes.)
This massive hulk, once packed with peasant tithes,
now supported by The National Trust,
mouldered with neglect; died of decay,
until ‘heritage’ was seen as riches.
What are the values we would like to store?
Should we maintain the past? Convert the barn?
Some build barns with their family riches,
but tithes benefited community,
as long as mutual trust did not decay.