The round year ends as it began,
in cold and darkness. Hovels crowned
silver and ermine hug the ground
consigned to succour fallen Man.
Clarion calls from ramparts stir
pale equerries. Beasts of the chase
flee vainly across park and chase,
pursuers plying whip and spur.
White leper beggars pick their lice
in apostolic misery.
The pure knight sports bright livery,
bar sinister his gross device
– honour abated. Evening bells
fade in the shade of forest eaves;
worn friezes of Adam and Eve
adorn the kerbs of healing wells.
Court minstrels recount epic gests
by amber-spitting pine brands’ blaze.
Crutched scribes painstakingly erase
the classic past for palimpsests.
In bone-white choirs, the moon alone
traces hoar rood and reredos;
the wayfarer sleeps in the close,
head pillowed on the bethel stone.
Vials bottle the saint’s golden pains
in philatories round the walls,
Christ’s weapons blazoned on the stalls.
The priest’s starched alb bears clotted stains.
Heiligenschein round ice saints’ busts
lights mountain paths. As croppers thresh,
God’s burning scourge flays spotless flesh
for the shocked witness of the Just,
appalled to find such awful things
a proper attribute of Him:
even the ardent seraphim
hid their faces in their wings.