To my great joy I have been spending part of my Sabbatical term up in Durham, as a Ruth Etchells visiting fellow at St. John’s College. This means that every morning I can wonder down the cobbled streets of the Bailey, beneath a lovely old stone arch and out onto the banks of the river Wear to where the graceful shape of Prebends Bridge arches across the river. This poem was written about the experience of looking out from that Bridge,both down at the river and up at the Cathedral, and holding in balance that double sense of the flow of time and the stillness of transcendence. I hope you enjoy it. I had the great privilege of reading it in the Cathedral only a day or two after it was written, and so sounding out its last line along that line of presence between two saints with which the poem concludes. An unforgettable experience. The whole of that Cathedral reading is available here.
As usual you can hear the poem itself, recorded the day it was written, by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button. This poem is not yet published but will appear in my next volume. Meanwhile my new Anthology, The Word in the Wilderness is available here.
On Prebends Bridge
I linger on this bridge above the flow,
And idle stir, the swirl of the slow Wear,
Whose purling turns and gentle fallings call
Some inner spring to stir and rise in me.
The morning light lies richly on each arch
And signs its white reflections on their stone,
Telling me more than I can see or know.
I am a passing eddy in the flow
And force of centuries that raised this hill,
That shaped this sheer peninsula and let
The Wear’s slow curve enclose the city’s crown.
Above me on that crown I sense the pull
And presence, hidden deep within their shrines,
Of saints through whom the primal spring still flows:
Bede in the west and Cuthbert in the east,
A field of force in flux between two poles,
Perhaps the great cathedral is a bridge
Above the hush and hum of their exchange
Pushing and pulling through the pulse of things.
And now a bell is calling me to climb
And take my place with others where the choir
Unbinds a waiting Sanctus from its chords
And joins our voices, in rich Latin words
With all the company of heaven and earth
And with these two, between whose hearts we sing.