Harlaxton Manor 1971-Now

To Bill Ridgway and all who love Harlaxton


"I shall make beauty of such great weight"

Massive stone, cut square, stacked high, create a place
For beauty—bright glass which lets vision
Enter, reflects the sky from far away.


After the goodbyes, the flight, a long ride
In a strange old country, someone says Oh
For all of us—and there cresting the hill,
Almost floating: a palace, shining peaks,
Lofts, high windows. The long first moment rolls
Over the green trees, then falls. And the heart
Believes what it does not have a name for.

One curve in the road and the coach whines slower,
Turns at the gate of stone and iron. A mile
Gray drive pours down through old lawn to meet us.
The dream-heart is waking, looks out as if
To find the memory that was lost childhood.

Then up the lane, we rise at one, with no
Glance back to the last turn into this world.
We pass fields; the weird cry of the pheasant
Calls out. We are on a carved bridge, a pond
Sweeps wide, its mirrored wings rippled with moor-hens
And heron, small bodies schooning among
The reeds. Clouds hang in the water as we
Rise still—on past the brick walls of the lost
Garden, past hedgerows, thickets of close trees,
Far hills.

Now the drive lifts us through the ghost
of a gatehouse, its huge wood doors locked back.
Now larger, looming, the face of the great
House—the soft colors of the weathered stone,
The light in the towering windows which
Watch us.

A long shadow reaches over
As we breathe tight, almost stop, as we squeeze
Into a gate where black bronze wild cats arch
On the pinnacles. The gravel crunch mumbles,
Grinds slow. We ease round the courtyard. Lions
rampant, grizzled with lichen, guard this lair
of time caught right for our coming. We are
crossing a line, too tired to be afraid,
sharp with the kind of awe love always holds.

And now we stop. Is it for our true lives?
We stand, gather what we thought we needed.
We are close enough to touch now the great
stone mansion's wish. We bundle off. A small
green door waits us. "Here, mates, you are at last."
To find in almost endless rooms, in hours
Of living they keep, what our true hearts know
As long as memory and friends and good
Stay built in us:

Manor high on a far hill
That we enter, not even sure at first
How or why, but alive, secret, waiting.
"You must be tired, poor ducks, now make yourselves
At home." And so we go on in to stay.