Evensong at Ripon Cathedral
We drifted along country roads at Whitsuntide
and knew to time our stops for evensong,
whose prayerful tones enliven soaring stones,
jeweled glass, carven imps and saints
in groins and misericords.
Those glorious sounds of piety
That remind forgetful tourists.
Hands joined, we pressed unwelcoming doors
And entered plain red brick.
In chilly silence, softly down an aisle
we padded, sat, and turned to view behind us
the gilded columns of scores of organ pipes
that loomed above the narthex.
Silence wrapped us till a breath of fluting song,
in harmony of candid purity—
choristers' voices, sheer as gossamer
flung across the lofty nave. Priest and choir,
five worshippers the only congregation.
After the liturgy’s enameled phrases, responses
sung as if by angels—not those ordinary boys
in red and white who paced behind the cross.
I turned to look again at soundless brazen instruments
above. No trumpet, lullaby or roar to shake stone and glass—
the very air around us, alas.
The caroling files now past, suddenly burst
From those mighty throats, like a dam breached,
flooding us, awed and lowly listeners
the way the ocean reminds the sands
how minuscule they are.