Thanks to Mark Hewlett and Andrew Budd for the above images.
It started with a glance out of the bus,
A blood red disc of a sandstorm sun,
It was ten past ten.
The light numinous rather than luminous,
As we opened the door to leave Bisley church,
Emigrant-ghosts waiting for the Bristol cart,
And a six week voyage to New South Wales.
It was twenty to eleven.
We walked through deep, shadowed holloways,
Walking the Bisley Path,
High above the valley marshlands,
Through woodland shrouded in the strange glow
Of another world’s grey-green light,
The harbinger of Hurricane Ophelia,
The wind now shrieking through the creaking trees,
Leaves falling like some autumn snowstorm.
We were dry-shod, however; the leaf-path
A russet covered rustling track-way,
Until we descended to the spring line,
Thence to cross the Slad Brook’s hidden bridge,
Where medieval pilgrims, too, once crossed,
Travelling to Gloucester Abbey.
At Shepescombe Green, Reformation revenants
Dangled from the crossroad gallows:
We sought solace and succour at Dells Farm,
At the Quaker burial ground;
Blue skies rushed in from the westward hills,
As we trod a corpse-path;
It was afternoon.
The church bells rang out from Painswick,
To welcome us past sun-gleamed streams,
To the Celestial City,
Where a black-coated congregation hurried to church,
Like Lowry figures struggling with a headwind,
‘He was Roman Catholic but their church isn’t big enough for the big family.
So they’re using our church.’
The sun was red again, but was swallowed by the cloud.
It disappeared behind the church spire,
While the old church bells tolled for thee and me;
It was two o’clock.
We had walked five and a half miles,
From the high church of ‘Beggarly Bisley’,
Along ancient paths to a funeral at Painswick:
In these short hours of seeming pathetic fallacy,
We walked through the history of our Christianity,
A Pilgrim’s Progress,
High above the Slough of Despond.