Ammon Wrigley - "Saddleworth Church"

The following is a transcription of a work by Saddleworth poet Ammon Wrigley (1861-1946).

Saddleworth Church

Revered I stand,
Solemn and grand,
On this green upland,
The moor above and the dale below
Keeping my watch while the ages go;
A warden great, with unbroken trust,
I guard the fields of sacred dust.
Over the graveyard dark and weird,
Over the granite wealth hath reared,
Over the vault of squire and dame,
Over the mound that bears no name,
Over them all, night and day,
Over them all I watch for aye.
Day by day, and year by year,
They bring them here
From far and near,
Father and mother,
Sister and brother,
One by one, till all are gone;
Till all are gone, and all forgot,
Their names, their homes, remembered not.
My gable stones
Are on dead men’s bones,
Yet truly set and firm their bed,
Deep in the graves of forgotten dead.
A noble wall, on a noble base,
I stand, a church of strength and grace.
Though white-haired winter’s witch of storm
May furious rave against my form,
Though fiends of wind and northern sleet
With cruel claws may tear and beat,
Yet, strong as the hills that round me climb,
I mock the strength of storm and time.
Seven hundred years have gone their way
Since, in the proud De Lacy’s day,
The first young church looked down the glen
O’er stalwart tribes of Saxon men,
Since first the spark of Gospel broke
Through branching wilds of forest oak,
And lit the light that shineth now
In deathless rays about my brow.
They bound the earliest of my line
To Whalley’s great Cistercian shrine,
Till Tudor sword cut far atwain
The bonds that ne’er will bind again;
And here I stand, saint of the hill,
My arms about my people still.
Each Sabbath sees a meek parade
Of those who come where their dead are laid,
Of those who come to kneel and pray
Where loved ones sleep the years away.
Homely folk from valleys deep,
From upland side and moorland steep,
From windy knoll and hollow warm,
From laneside cot and bleak-built farm,
They bring within my portals wide
The worship of the old hillside,
The simple faith their fathers taught,
Still undefiled by sceptic thought.
Eight great bells in my tower swing!
Eight great bells that reel and ring
Down the sky’s broad ways
A pageant of praise,
Hymn and chant in gowns of white,
Prayer in saintly raiment bright.
Reverent bells, when the people kneel,
Reverent bells, that know and feel
Each tremor that through me thrills,
Each holy sound that swells and fills
My fretted stalls
And hallowed walls;
And through my bells, like spirits fair,
They leap into the gladsome air,
And down the winds, to every door,
To mansion great, and cot of poor,
They take sweet gifts of peace and rest
To weary heart and aching breast.
A christening rite:
A child in white,
Lying asleep on its mother’s arm,
Folded close to her bosom warm,
Her every thought, her every care,
Her love, her life, all centre there.
All that is holy, pure, and good,
Meet in the joy of motherhood;
And who can tell her hopes and fears,
Seeking to probe the future years:
Will leagued dishonour, shame, and sin,
In Life’s grim fight the vantage win?
Will destiny shed the rays of fame
In quenchless light around its name?
Will he who stands by that mother’s side
Look down its life with honest pride?
Who can say,
Yea or nay.
A name is writ in my great Church roll,
A name is writ on a fair white soul,
And whate’er betide, henceforth to be,
By this holy rite, a part of me.
Wedding days,
Orange sprays,
Coach and greys,
Youth and grace,
Joy’s red rose on each happy face,
A joyous crowd about my door,
Lightsome feet on my vaulted floor,
When up the aisle, like morning’s glow,
With downcast eyes, she walketh slow.
Azure and gold, emerald and rose,
Shower her raiment as she goes,
But never a ray that round her lies
Can match the light of her winsome eyes.
At the altar side
Bridegroom and bride,
Low and clear:
They vow and swear
To be one in heart
Till death doth part.
Down the aisle they wedded go,
Down the aisle for weal and woe,
Bridal maidens in their rear,
Guest and kindred thronging near;
Many a saint, in my windows fair,
Looketh down on the happy pair.
Lovely and gay,
They ride away,
But O, how soon Joy’s cup is quaffed,
And low they lie who sang and laughed.
Saddest of all,
Hearse and pall,
And one great bell the people dread,
That welcomes home the coming dead;
One great bell the people fear,
That tolling, speaks of coffin and bier.
A choking sob
Heaves in the throb,
In the beat of its heavy heart,
That tells of ties now rent apart,
When up the road
Comes the sombre load.
The smiling babe, from its mother’s breast,
And weary age, that craveth rest,
Girlhood fair, in Life’s springtime,
Manhood, vain of its lusty prime,
Rich and poor, humble and proud,
Ride to my gates in coffin and shroud;
Lust for power, and lust for gold,
Their doom is seen in my graveyard cold.
The squire, shorn of his great estates,
How poor he lies within my gates;
The strutting lord of a passing day,
How voiceless his once haughty clay.
And why should we in Life’s frail span,
E’er set our heel on a fellow man?
For maybe in our lordliest breath,
Crushed, we fall ’neath the heel of death.
Then list, ye proud, whoe’er ye be,
Oh, list to meek humility,
For humbled ye’ll come one day to me.
Dust to dust,
Canker and rust,
To lie and rot,
Is the mortal lot,
While that which is immortal waits
The opening of the golden gates.
A prayer in stone am I,
A rock-built prayer, uplifted high
Into a windy moorland sky;
A prayer for those who round me lie,
A prayer that they who wander by
May live — remembering death is nigh.
The moon is up o’er the dark moor height,
Good-night! ye hills; ye dales, Good-night!.

Ammon Wrigley - "Saddleworth Church"


This page was last modified on 14 August 2018 and has been edited by Dave Pattern.

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