Acrylics and gold leaf by Candia
(Photo: Ballista: Wikipaedia)
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.
(The Parting of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere
by Julia Margaret Cameron)
Since I live in the vicinity of Kelmscott now, here is an
old poem, re-blogged…
I raised a latch of a door in the wall
and immediately knew this was home.
The garden’s rosy superabundance
was a mille-fleurs embroidery stitching
raucous cawing of rooks from those high elms, the
swifts wheeling, doves’ cooing and blackbird song.
A mulberry tree was central. Pastel
hollyhocks nodded their welcome and men
scythed reeds and floated them down the river
under the willow trees’ gray-green flickers.
Lead waterspouts were limply supported
from the mellow masonry and woodworm
pricked the panelling. I felt not sadness,
but a beauty born of melancholy.
Leaving my charcoal overcoat downstairs,
I inspected the quaint garrets where once
tillers and herdsmen slept under the eaves.
The sloping floorboards creaked under my feet.
I realised she had never loved me.
How could she? Women are all shape-changers.
This house is an E with its tongue cut out,
so it will never prattle its scandal.
Betrayal’s woven in its tapestries:
Samson with his eyes gouged out for his love.
Please, dear Janey, be happy…I cannot
paint you, but I love you – and now leave you.
Some called it amitie amoureuse.
They dubbed me Guenevere, La Belle Iseult.
Once in this lost riverland, out of depth,
we drowned in our adulterous passion.
I heard carriages arriving at night,
so the cob’s harsh hooves had to be silenced
by leather shoes. I had no energy
when William was here, but took long walks
with Gabriel, who said our leaky punt
was not a poetic locomotion.
I keep my thoughts locked in my casket
in my bedroom. It was kind of Topsy
to bring me back that fine Icelandic smock.
Gabriel said it served his purposes well.
When they had Mouse the babes were not tiresome,
but Jenny’s impairment grows every day.
Tomorrow someone must trim the dragon.
In the studio I hear faint crying
over a stillborn child. He took chloral,
alcohol and would stay awake till five.
What was I to do with his exhumed verse?
Sir Lancelot had welded us as one.
I suppose I never loved him at all.
Tonight I left a pansy in Blunt’s room.
I am past sobbing that he does not come.
Aleister Crowley, Apple, apple bobbing, apple ducking, Carmenta, Ceres, Cox's Pippin, Dorothy Parker, freezing eggs, gingerbread men, pentagram, Pomona, Schadenfreude, Standard English, William Morris
Dru stood back to admire her boarders’ display board.
She had organised them to produce a poster advertising the Apple
Bobbing Evening. Some, who had northern roots, had wanted to call it
‘Ducking’, but she went with the Standard English appellation.
Isolde had drawn a very sophisticated Pomona, which she had copied
from a William Morris illustration. She was nearly as good at Art as Juniper
Boothroyd-Smythe had been.
Of course, fertility goddesses had been in her own mind ever since she had
heard that companies such as Apple might consider freezing their female
Everyone was becoming excited but she had had to discipline a Sixth Former
who had quoted Dorothy Parker in her hearing- whether deliberately or not
she was unsure.
Ducking for apples-change one letter and it is the story of my life.
How could someone so young be tainted with such a degree of
Schadenfreude? Or was that emotion only connected to an absorption in
the misfortune of others? She would have to look it up in one of the girls’
The girls had decorated the borders of the poster with pentgrams, which
apparently are the shape you see around the seeds if an apple is cut
horizontally. Dru had checked with the Religious Studies Department and
had been assured that these were shapes used in Christian amulets long
before they had been appropriated, or misappropriated by Aleister Crowley
One could never be too careful as parents were so litigious nowadays
and anything that they disapproved of was difficult to implement. Dru told
some that the activity was part of the core curriculum, which seemed to
satisfy them. She drew their attention to Carmenta– a version of the
goddess Ceres. The former had invented the Roman alphabet and so
was educationally relevant. This damped down the fires of protest.
She had had to resort to hanging the fruit on strings, however,
as there had been an objection as to the potential exchange of body fluids
if girls opened their mouths underwater while trying to bite and secure a
Cox’s Pippin, or whatever. The aggrieved parent insisted on there being a
First Responder in attendance in case her precious darling choked.
Drusilla did not intend to be pipped to the post, however. She was going to
go first and, if successful, she would be the first to marry.
Thankfully Nigel had answered the invitation in the affirmative and he
promised to bring some gingerbread men and a couple of carved
I blush to have to confess something to you, Dear Reader.
Candia- truly-you can tell me anything.
Yes, and it will be round Suttonford in a couple of hours.
No, please don’t be cynical. It’s not like you.
(It is actually, but hey!)
Well, Carrie, Brassie, Clammie and I had tea yesterday.
I know. Don’t be shocked. We haven’t forsaken Costamuchamoulah
coffee shop. It’s just nice to sit quietly in a friend’s house and watch her
perform a tea ceremony. So soothing.
Okay, so you wrote a poem about the experience?
No, not exactly. I remembered that I had one in my file, so here it is:
AND SOMETIMES TEA
(That’s from The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope, isn’t it?)
Shut up and read!
AND SOMETIMES TEA
If there is a way to take tea you know
how. It is something to do with the pot:
essentially silver. Weak Earl Grey’s flow,
with its exotic scent of Bergamot,
is dispensed by your deft, be-rubied hand
into Spode blue and white cups which you use
always. The William Morris tea pot stand
absorbs the heat while you hold court; amuse
me with your anecdotes. Kitchenesque is
your period. A background Cona drips
its homely memento mori. For this
is an expansive moment while we sip
and sit, straining Time still. We lean elbows
on a peacock-plumed Liberty oilcloth,
whose preening practicality yet shows
your craving for an aesthetic. We both
counsel take, give; sacramentally eat
a forbidden bun-two latter day Eves
who do not try to read success, defeat,
by auguring the dregs of drained tea leaves.
We know that Life is hasty, brutish, brief-
the beautiful and fine are what we need,
to ease our pains and soften all our grief:
this ceremony necessary creed.
“If William Morris were alive today
he would turn over in his grave,” she said.
Reneging on co-operative roots,
weasly traders attempt to fob folk off
with cheap crazed pottery and Repro stuff
under bestriding Betjeman pylons
in the shadow of a silver Kaaba:
Sainsbury’s Savacentre. Poor Topsy
would have topped himself to see his named pub,
a Riverside Free House, serving (slowly)
Pre-Raphaelite burgers and Liberty
Jacket potatoes. Some spoof has written
under “Today’s Specials”: Leek and Cat Shit
Pie, £1.75 and Spinach and
Scrotum Quiche, £2.75. Thick smoke
reminds one of past local industries:
snuff and tobacco. Wading through potholes
one wonders at the willow-fringed Wandle
where fine printed silks were dipped by his hands,
dark, indigo-stained, like those large blue plums
which grew on the wall in his Woodford plot
in days when he rode through Epping Forest
in his miniature toy suit of armour,
looking for dragons to slay. Now he knew
dyeing was an art and when the fierce floods
whipped the millwheel into activity
such as might have wrecked the very millhouse,
he may have thought his enterprise would fail
like the relationship with the beauty
who was such a burden to him. But now
his Strawberry Thieves grace the punters’ ties.
“Have only beautiful or useful things”
falls on deaf ears, as past ideals take wings
and shopping trolleys fill with plastic junk
purchased from the monopolising store
which conserves workshops, but kills small growers.
Morris, you should be living at this hour.
England hath need of thee! Here be dragons.