home page list of works


When summer crossed the portals
Of a damp and dreary May,
A mist of early morning
All across the lowlands lay.
I garbed myself in woollen fleece
And set out on my way
As vagabond, to roam the hills
In search of something strange.

The sun rose high, my feet grew tired,
I lay down by a stream;
Lulled by the sounds of sleepy waters
I dreamt a marv'lous dream:
My soul was raised above the earth
And, facing t'ward the East,
There stretched before me Heaven,
Hell, and turmoil in-between.

When Adam delved and Eve she span
Who was then the gentleman?
No lords we'll endure, nor masters we'll keep,
But spin them a noose and dig their graves deep in the ground ...
Dance, on their graves, round their graves;
Dance in widening circles of hate,
'Til all are entranced.
Let our fates be: "no-one was saved".

Now, Heaven was still and peaceful,
No movement saw I where
The golden fields of Paradise
Breathed desolate despair.
I wondered why, in all this time,
No spirit had deserved
A place within God's Kingdom –
Oh for whom was it preserved?

The next realm was abundant
In what the first had lacked:
the ghostly damned in countless numbers
From side to side were packed.
And each one strove to pull himself
Up on his neighbour's back
To 'scape the torment of the fiery
Waves that round them lapped.


The world between was overcast
With clouds from Heaven's base;
No heat from Hell's inferno rose up
To warm that dismal place.
And in its midst there stood a tower
So dreadful to behold,
For it was built of bleached-white bones
And skulls ten thousand-fold.

The plain about the tower was filled
With bustling multitudes
Of farmers, merchants, priests, and beggars,
Disordered and confused.
Some tried to climb the ivory walls
But slipped back to the ground,
Some cursed the chains that made them slaves,
Some prayed to be unbound.


Upon the parapets there stood
A king in crimson gown;
I heard him speak with words of scorn
Cast down upon the crowd:
"You bondsmen are and shall remain
While I be master here;
Your mortal toil shall raise this spire
And I to Heaven's sphere."

In waking I've a firm resolve
To pull that pillar down.
I've sent a summons through the land
For friends to rally round –
To Peter Ploughman, Walter Tyler,
Jack Straw, and John Ball.
We'll bind our hearts with sacred oaths:
One act shall serve for all.


Come all brave folk to London –
John Ball has rung your bell –
To storm that ivory steeple
And toll our lords' death-knell.
Since Adam's heirs have been denied
The path to Paradise,
As equals in perdition then
Our birthright shall be strife.
detail from mosaic of the Slaughter of the Innocents, Siena cathedral
photos: Stephen Alsford
built of bleached-white bones and skulls

Created: November 17, 2014. Last modified: March 25, 2015 © Stephen Alsford