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Stone steps I can’t help taking

by Jeff Phelps on October 17th, 2016

These are the wonderful stone steps leading from the chapter house at Wells Cathedral in Somerset. The chapter house is at the top of the flight, flooded with its own light. Look at the way the steps from the right flow and merge into the ones coming straight down. They are almost fluid – a real visionary feat of construction.


I’d been thinking about the subject Come with Me for Poetry on Loan, which promotes contemporary poetry through public libraries in the West Midlands. When I revisited Wells I was reminded how impressive these steps were. I really did want to write a poem that made people want to come with me and sense what this place was like.


The chapter house is placid as a pond.
One slender column spurts and overspreads,
spatters into rib and lily frond,
cascades over alcoves with sculpted heads
of long-gone clergy; ugly, ordinary men
whose voices bubble to the surface, rise and dip.
It is these stairs that beckon them again:
like the way to heaven, treads eroded to a lip
by seven hundred years of heels before us.
Waters meet at a curving brimming weir.
If stones could sing and light was the chorus
these stairs are what we would hear-
prayer pouring from the chapter house tower
sluicing down into every cloistered hour.

image from Britain Express

Take a look at Wikipedia images of the chapter house, too, with its single central column and beautiful carved niches.


My poetry pamphlet Wolverhampton Madonna is available from Offa’s Press. from October 2016



One Comment
  1. Fascinating, Jeff, thanks for sharing.

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