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Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Short, Official Guide Book II

Continuing the threatened serialisation of Short, Official Guide Book to Ancestral Home from its introduction of 12/03/08, the tour proper begins here:-

The Great Hall.

You enter next the Great Hall.
Grande it was in days of old, its oak
carved with the chronicles of folk
back almost to the fall.
A gallery of excellence, a temple of the arts,
A blossoming of hothouse plants
before the frosts got in.

Facing you, the hardy Caryatid. ref
See her now that her hour has gone:
the stones she proudly held aloft
are dust to walk upon -
or splayed in patterns round her feet,
white petals from a rose.

Impassive as a firedog,
older than steel,
remembering the days when people used to kneel,
now daubed with pop art circles
to produce a modern feel,
she stands beneath a stained glass eye,
has stood there long
in glass-stained sun;
an apparition who has seen
all changes come to pass,
watched dispositions, forms,
configurations move
like adders in the grass
or shadows on the carriage window
as the engine gathers speed.

Move in stillness if you will
to view the bas-relief. ref
Here all is shadowed flux and flow.
Think: shifting sands, life-giving bleed,
motif leaching into motif; light
and dark, an ocean tide:
our ever-moving picture show.

Our history in silhouette:
shadows of a shade. The youngest son,
not blooded yet
(and truth to tell, not quite
perplexed, beset
when chattels, house and grounds seemed lost,
our father dead, the heir unfit -
and that far from the end of it,
for then was found
an unknown, virulent decay
worming its spongiforming way ref
from floor to floor
into the very heart and core
of our imaginings - a modern
Atlas suddenly, a Jacob, took 1 2
the world upon his shoulders, stole
birthright and title, self-esteem,
his brother's seniority,
to sell abroad, illegally,
the instruments of dignity,
the family identity:
our diaries and history,
our manuscripts and tapestries,
the precious jades and ivories,
the lily of pure gold.

The family and house were saved,
but narratives we'd loved of old
and treasured beyond life were told,
in strange, unsympathetic languages.

Dear visitor, you entered by the very door
through which they came, those
and profiteers,
financiers, and the whole cast
of racketeers,
to strip and asset-strip and rip
out all the grandeur that was here.

Nowhere now, the words, the talk,
the child-like figures carved in chalk,
the riverside sold off for shops,
The Queen Anne gardens ploughed for crops.
Nowhere, the lead glaze earthenware,
the chinoiserie anchorite, 1 2
the painted alabaster bear, ref
the Buddhas carved in andesite, ref
but here instead (from truckle bed, ref
from engine head and hammerhead,
nails, bow saws, axe and trowel) was born
this strange, mutated quadruped
with bullshit on its horn.

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