I should say that today I can recall almost nothing of the house itself or of its many occupants over the years. None of them appear in the poem - as far as I am aware! The slowly developing imagery of the poem has obliterated all the images of its source. I should also say that it would probably be unhelpful to look for symbols of the usual kind in the poem. Symbols are by definition constant. They stand for what they stand for. In the poem, though, these symbols, like those in the poem's meeting between Caedmon and The Abbess Hilda, are subject to change. The house, for example, may stand for different things at different times.
The drawings (not illustrations in the true sense) are by my grandchildren.
Short, Official Guide to Ancestral Home
Preface to the second edition
In houses such as this
was history shaped, were
revolutions planned. In rooms
like these great men and women
honed their special skills, found
passions ready-made -
and not just ready-made: arranged
like books on shelves for easy reference
and, ultimately: choice. All that are here:
dust, furniture, fine paintings speak
of other days and other ways; of past
explorers, knights to the Crusades,
missionaries of many faiths and creeds
(or none), exploiters, slavers,
traders, smugglers and murderers,
fools and vagabonds; all grew
within these walls, and then set forth
to work their wonders or disasters.
Inventors, torturers and doctors,
men of science, dancers
and romancers, artists,
artisans and engineers,
politicians, parasites and public
men of all descriptions,
bishops, generals and thieves,
all in their day
and in their various ways
Walking sticks (unless you are infirm)
and brollies, bags (not handbags),
cameras and overcoats, mobile phones
and parcels, food and drink
must be surrendered in the Entrance Hall.
Whilst doing so, please note
(for we are very proud of them)
the geometric patterns in the floor;
intricate, they are
of Portland stone and Devil's Black.
Beyond (majestic is the only word),
the cantilevered staircase
rises to the upper rooms.
Staircase and the bedrooms may be viewed
on Tuesday afternoons, September
through to January, when
her Ladyship goes south
and you are free
to take the Long Tour, one
we have designed
especially for connoisseurs. Today
should whet your appetite. The door
beyond the staircase is your
open sesame, not just
to our world, but to many.