Evensong at Ripon Cathedral
Joan L. Cannon
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.
About the Author
Joan L. Cannon’s work has been printed in both commercial and literary journals, and she has two novels in print and available as e-books. She writes regular reviews and essays for the internationally known website www.seniorwomen.com. She has taught English and theater arts to high school students, edited a scholarly newsletter and an anthology of memoirs. A year in England when she and her late husband were transferred there gave her an opportunity to visit places like Ripon, and other churches and cathedrals that remain as fond memories. Indeed, she did learn to time her visits when she could so as to hear Evensong.