No sketching in the Abbey grounds on Sundays
No cyclists at any price on any day.
Twin evils, one to steal the shape and size,
The other, enemy of peace and cloistered calm.
But the bridge is Japanese, and Hiroshige could have
Lived with the shale precipices and thin waterfalls.
But not over there by the shooting lodge, overhung
With the ghost of Macmillan and a hundred pointed sticks.
The ruins themselves, dumb stones shrieking history
Out of human pitch, framing eloquently nothing but sky,
Great windows gone like a thunder clap when Henry’s men
Took off the roof, the merciless storms bereft all else.
The murdered masonry, clothed by the creeping grass,
Framed in ferns, now seems fit for eternity,
Still, reverted to rocks, no longer pillaged,
Barn builders, like cyclists, banned from the site.
And the Wharfe, witness to all, building and destroying,
Ribbons on, in shallows and deeps, as ever
Hostage to shadowy fish, diving birds, dippers
And countless feet, ankles and ten toes.