Is it a coward’s comfort in the deep
boredom of the bells, summoning the sleep-
walkers of Wells to steep themselves
in England’s other lasting dream?
See them gather on the green,
Dressed up, oak-aged, and carefully staged
in what they imagine to be
a lost Edwardian scene.
Or does it signal a more militant intent?
To toll defiance against the well-meant,
Hell-bent dream of science: the concrete,
white heat, dayglo, and a misplaced faith
in lesser gods to cheat the true God
of the debt we owe by right.
(No shyness of that debt in here: the stones all shout it.
The church is built on bones: make none about it.)
And yet that dream of eternal light
creeps even here, in slow official lines,
in tombs lit by No Smoking signs,
In TV screens, and aisles as clean
as those in Marks and Sparks,
and carpeting in beige. So they ring in rage,
And rage against the dying of the dark.
The dwindling army, uniform in Sunday best,
Forms ranks for reveille on the day of rest –
One lesson the deserters took to heart
at least: Sunday’s a lie in (every day’s a feast).
The Sabbath is a fry-up hangover cure,
Football, shopping mall, hardware store –
Now in the collection box the loyal count the cost
of a loss of conviction, of going soft,
and conceding half is fiction.
In the numbers game, this God’s just lost.
So Edwardian actors toll out for His wake,
Then man the shop and dole out tea and cake
and key fobs to the tourists who still keep
the corpus raised and the substance buried deep.
And the lesser gods, of lunacy and leisure,
Pile on clods and sods, and slag the lot
in a heap of dross and treasure.