Chapel revisited by Glyn Hughes
Thirty years ago I’d have come to this humble place
angry at what I’d learned of the past —
at the harmony of Big House, chapel and mill
breaking the spirit and back;
seeing the moor’s smirching pour
straight out of the chapel door.
I’d imagine a boy of seven dragged out of the pit
and a girl who had been harnessed to drag trucks.
Now humbled in their pews,
they sense that famous tremble in the heart
You may know by feeling that you are saved! —
so that they through being saved become masters!
It’s merely a cottage converted — some Georgian glass,
and a walnut pulpit —
set down in Lord Somebody’s vale.
But there a woman, one sharing my sixty years,
is crying at its loss.
Her bitten fingers! Her broken nails!
— at an age when I have gathered my own history —
seems more important than History;
certainly more than my ruthless old neglect
of her right to the antennae of her faith
among the wild grass and the family names.
With only the ghost of John Wesley (who stood right here,
admonishing finger raised through the dust
swirled in the silent light)
and her few, old allies to fight the dry rot,
it’ll be sold for certain, won’t it? A conversion
back to a cottage — of sorts.
This womb of green making chased further off
and a harsh driveway pushing aside the graves
for a Porsche and a garden of fuckin’ gnomes.
Then I see again — in this valley of cruel licence,
hunting, scandal, cards at The Big House;
tenanted pits and farms —
those children wound up in a bucket,
from a hole in the ground,
to witness the amazing here, sometimes.
Although firstly they see nothing, yet painfully light comes.
Not candlelight on the streaming coal-face,
but God’s transparent, infinite blue.
They see a fop in a long, combed wig
ballooning across the bright day
until he collapses one hundred feet to his farms!
If I were falling (but then, I am)
I might be thinking
how different souls support themselves;
with what inflation, what poisonous gases
they are lifted or fool themselves that they are lifted
to God and such.
That grubby child might become a Chartist
with seditious books and hopes of equity.
The chapel-goer’s dream
is a life accepted in season.
And the bored Lord whose time hangs heavily
dreams of exploit, science and reason.