Stone Menagerie

A happy horse in desert caravanserai
tasting the grass with relish while
in his master’s arms a young man lies supine.
Presumably Sir Edward Coles of this city, alderman and attorney at law,
is pictured here as Good Samaritan,
his happy-looking horse munching his feed.

Another beast belonging to the Good Samaritan,
with one ear up, the other down, bites at a dandelion less happily
upon the tomb of Bishop Isaac Maddox of this diocese.

A life-size horse stamps on a fallen eagle
as its rider dies by a musket shot at Waterloo.

Lions and big cats abound, common as doormats under people’s feet.
A cat of sorts, leopard or panther, peeping from folded robe,
lies at the feet of Richard Edes, chaplain to Queen Elizabeth I,
while in the choir a fearsome lion of England nibbles at King John’s sword.
More regal lions surround him on every side on gaily painted shields.

Two realistic lions guard pulpit steps,
while a more cheerful lion and two beasts which cannot be identified
rest on two tombs likewise anonymous
and in the North Choir Aisle two headless lions
rest at the feet of unknown bishop and a knight.

Resting their heads on a black swan apiece,
lie John Beauchamp of Holt and his wife Joan,
greyhound and whippet at their feet as faithful pets.

On the floor two owls keep watch on Stanley Baldwin’s tomb,
while over the west door a ram,
as Abraham raises knife to slay his son,
hides in the bushes, ready for sacrifice.

Ravens abound and eagles.
One lone bird, more raven that a dove,
carries an olive branch for Alfred Chamberlain Lilly and his wife.

A stone menagerie. Suppose at night,
Cathedral darkened, moonlight glancing in should wake them all.
What mayhem would ensue, what roaring, whinnying, barking, hooting cries,
clattering of hooves, the rush of wings,
until the dawning light sends them all back to lie,
silent and still, on tombs of stone.