The Building of the Church at Logres

Behold the days they built the church of London-in-Logres,
I was there when they laid the foundation stones
like a row of bones set firm in the hard earth of Albion
above the tomb of the old king, Uther Pendragon.
Round they builded it, in the image of eternity;
Raised the altar in stones of granite, roughly-hewn;
set upon it the holy table, the place of consecration,
and the triple thrones – humble oak – carved with loving skill.

The work progressed at speed and each man lent his strength
to the raising of the temple, in a harmony of work
and worship; full flowering of art and industry;
a blessed endeavour, of Solomonic majesty.
Still adornment was lacking, Merlin decried the absence
of images – the holy icons – sine qua non.
‘We cannot worship thus’ he said, ‘deprived of sights divine –
‘windows on heaven without which we are blind.’

All artists were summoned, yet none had the skill in him
nor the grace to depict the Redeemer in painting;
all were found wanting. Work was halted.
Still worse fared the sculptors, though they could not be faulted:
All manner of beasts, birds and things that grow in earth
the craftsmen of that land excelled in drawing out of wood,
or at chiselling in bold relief – making likenesses in stone;
Man alone, and his Exemplar, they could not represent.

Meanwhile Morgana peddled strife among the company,
she sewed dissent while Arthur’s eyes looked eastward,
though in her wiles affected generosity;
offered her arts in service, setting up, in place of art
to glorify Christ-God, pagan ciphers, mockeries
of the True Faith in subtle signs of ill-intent;
compromising thus the soundness of the structure.

Merlin saw past the mask and fast-discerned her purposes.
He drew back and worked against her dark designs,
till came the time that he had, flat out, to refuse her aid
and sent her scorned and furious from his side.
So might Satan once have been put to shame
for weaving discords in the world under another name;
his evil undermined, he sought then to rebel
in like manner to this latter-day Jezebel.

The king was at that time removed in vain preoccupations:
accounts of his knights abroad, seeking their salvation
in feats of courage and chivalric contest, much maligned
by Merlin, who ever would remind him of the folly
men embrace in seeking passing glory on this earth.
Yet Arthur stayed in mind divided, with a restless heart;
sick of minding the kingdom, eager to depart
in hasty conquest of a land apart from Albion.

By J. W. Thompson

Photo by Agnieszka Mordaunt on Unsplash


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