Poetry and Pictures from the Yorkshire Dales by Alan Hartley

dales poetry headerPhotograph ©David Tarn

East Window

east-window.jpgPerhaps the open outlook to the east
Ensures the leaded panes catch every ray
And part explains why on the dullest day
My eye is drawn up to the colour feast,
And my heart warms in its unfailing glow,
And my mind wanders in its mystery.
Who are these saints? What do their symbols show?
What is their place in our church history?

I see Saint Peter’s keys and Saint Paul’s sword
Set in bright patterns of new coloured glass,
Matched faithfully with ancient panes restored
With loving care and mindful of the past.
I see an artist in a bygone age
Reading her bible, searching every page,
To choose which saintly figures to include
To inculcate a calm, reflective mood.

But allegories fade with passing days,
New scholarship will teach in different ways.
We question legends that were once held sure
And symbols that were clear now seem obscure,
Perception then and now is not the same.
Yet, in her bold design the artist has,
By chance or inspiration, gained her aim
By holding the east window in our gaze.

For, when soft morning sunlight floods the glass
And falls in a cascade of coloured light
That dapples down around the altar cross,
It flows along straight aisles, increasing bright,
To spill into the shadows in box pews,
And gives each one of us the chance to use
Our inner eye to see in that new light,
Christ on the cross and the clear path he trod,
Revealing to us all a path to God.

A poem dedicated to the memory of Louisa Cecilia Bolton (1837-1861) who designed the original stained glass East Window of St Peter and St Paul, Leyburn, which was installed in 1854.

Written to celebrate the restoration of the window in December 2010.