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RIPON
William the bastard Norman knew
what he was doing. The crypt at Ripon’s
Saxon, it can’t afford to forget.
Cathedral which discounts forgetting
cannot wholly credit Christian loving
kindness, whose kind are dead
                 however they came by their death,
however they entered in their estate
at home or far from. You walk
upon graves; also the dead rise up
walls of Ripon, they
                                 lie down in aisles
asleep in figures you speak them,
they do not rest
                          in middle-aged shroudings,
in Augustan bad taste, are housewives
who carefully looked after, are soldierly chaps
put by through forced marches,
swept overboard in a nasty sea.
Whatever
                elegant letters say on plaques,
however the choir school sings to praise
the transept’s handsomely painted ceiling
or the clock off handed deals you out
reminders of passing
                                   they do not forgive.
Ripon stalls the dead. The matter’s not settled,
the work not done as yet.
                                                                            2. 2. 69
Editor's note
Ripon: first publication; Ripon: cathedral town in North Yorkshire; William the bastard Norman: i.e. William the Conqueror, reigned 1066-87, the first Norman king of England; KS wrote (1 February 1969): ‘Snow was lying at Harrogate. I prospected the centre of the town…then caught a bus as far as Ripon, where there is a cathedral dating to the Saxons, a market place where at 9 o’clock each night the Wakeman blows the curfew horn), pubs, little shops, the most antiquated Woolworths you ever did see. Side streets, down slopes and a bitter, bitter wind. Snow and rime lay about Harrogate. Ripon has a pipeline to the Arctic…Ripon was burnt by William the Norman. The Saxon is in the crypt, unforgotten. Nearby 12th or 13th century walls, pre-Tudor, back scanty allotments with poor brussel sprouts and beaten wallflowers. The tower is uphill. There are varnish works. A seventeenth century tearoom, and the Cathedral. The Cathedral is given over to the dead. The dead are everywhere. (one sailed with Cook.) A tablet declares a widow’s "token of conjugal affection". The memorials climb all over the walls, some superbly lettered (mainly from about 1830 or so) and a couple done by someone who, I guess, was taught by Gill. An ornate 18th century vulgarity rolls and writhes over a medieval effigy. The transept roof is finely painted. Somewhere, up there, a sound of water, but only half-hearted because the dirge of the innumerably endlessly dead talks the water down’; on 9 March 1969 KS wrote: ‘Ripon, still strange in atmosphere and dour on its northern approaches—we stopped at a hamlet church and shivered for the vicar’s sake and the dour pews, the rusted iron stove midway—is less austere in the Minster on a second visit. …The Ripon market square—you look around. Here at 9 each night the Wakeman blows his horn as has been done since some time before the Normans came. (The city charter, given by Alfred, is the second oldest in England.)…’
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