I posted a blog recently about a Seven Towers Last Wednesday open mic at which I read my poem ‘To the Memory of Edward Tenison, D.D., and the Glorious Resurrection of His Church as a DIY / Decorating Centre Superstore This Poem Is Dedicated ‘, which I wrote some time ago when St Mary’s Church in Mary Street Dublin had been converted into a DIY centre. I was taken by the idea that it was now a place where one could go for refurbishment of a kind. And that, once upon a time, a long time ago, it had been then too a place for refurbishment of a kind. I was also reading John Betjemann at the time and was impressed by the amount of work he put in trying to save old churches like this from extinction so I paid homage with an introductory quote.
The plaque on the wall inside the church which speaks about the dedication of Edward Tenison (and his wife Ann), and all the other plaques, carry an enormous freight of history. The woodwork and general decor is stunning. The church is now a restaurant (called, for some reason, ‘The Church’) and I am glad to see the that the interior is well preserved and looked after by the proprietors. Well worth a visit.
This poem was first published in the Electric Acorn on-line magazine (issue 10, and thank you again Nessa O’Mahoney) in 2001 and subsequently in my second collection ‘And Suddenly the Sun Again’ (2010). (And for some reason I can’t fathom I can’t get wordpress to make the stanza breaks so I have inserted numbers)
TO THE MEMORY OF EDWARD TENISON, DD., AND THE GLORIOUS RESURRECTION OF HIS CHURCH AS A DIY/DECORATING CENTRE SUPERSTORE THIS POEM IS DEDICATED
“The Church’s Restoration
Has left for contemplation
Not what there used to be… ” From ‘Hymn’ by John Betjeman
To the memory of the Right Reverend Father in God
Edward Tenison DD, late Lord Bishop of Ossory,
departed this life November 29, 1735 AD,
in his 62nd year and whose plaque looks down
on the best ceramic tiles available in Dublin’s city
centre: designs arrived just newly from Italy and Spain
in all good brands of quality (there’s Kalebodur,
Kleine and Pilkington), this poem is dedicated.
Many a Sunday did the faithful decorate themselves
and sit in pews to parley with their Lord ~ Yea,
would they congregate to pray and deck the soul
in colours pleasing to Him, led by Edward Tenison,
His representative on earth. Yea, would they climb
their voices past the highest organ note, past
curtain rails and satins 60 inches wide, past
facingboard and every paint and stain and shade
the modern soul finds needful, nay, finds balm
to spirits peeled and stripped and sanded daily: Oh,
lift up your hearts and praise the wallpapers of suburbia
and walk with me in heaven, feast on tasteful decors,
double-glazing, sunken lighting, sliding door — These
hallowed boards he trod year after year now bend
beneath their rows of sealant, stacks of grouting pastes
and curious implements designed to paint a ceiling
without splashback, all his sermons stashed somewhere
that God has rented out to store such truck as time
has shelved for good. They were for Good. They were for God!
But even He, in His divine, unguarded moments
fain would cast them out (His mansions too could maybe do
with some refurbishment?). Fain would, but can’t. (They’re Edward’s.
Edward Tenison’s. One can’t). So let poor churchmice gnaw
long into night until they break a tooth on texts
that dwell uncompromisingly upon the need
to sweep clean every crack and cleft and dusty shelf
and fling wide open every aperture will welcome
Grace of God. Remember, Edward, all those doubts
you had and nursed long winter nights beside your Ann
(beloved and commemorated here too) telling over
and again how it is said the Kingdom of the Good
will never fail, an we but rise each morning bent
upon remaking of ourselves. See, Edward, Heaven
come on earth around you: method, mean and mechanism
(all in handy packs) to smooth the rough, rebuild again
the fallen, stem the grim disintegration all
our masonry is heir to. Yea, verily I say:
the lion of solemn vespers here lies down beside the lamb
of pelmets, curtains and Swish-Rail. Excuse me, Can you
help me? I want a can of outdoor paint. And, oh yes, a brush.
I can identify with the sentiments here. It is some time now since the ‘masses’ (excuse the pun) started shopping instead of going to church on a Sunday. I remember remarking once that we now ‘worship at the altar of comsumerism’ on a sunday. I think the people around did’nt really understand.
Yes. The New Religion. Millions of believers!