The Blog of John Walford, British-born, but long resident in The United States. I am an art historian, currently studying satire in Netherlandish art, an amateur photographer, and occasional writer, who writes here about art, photography, and the human condition--some of it ekphratic poetry, responding to works of art. This is to be a site for words and images, interacting on one another, as vehicles of human expression.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Andrew Herther (Picasia), Jedburgh Abbey, 2004



"Long After the Monks Departed"

Sorry sight, the monks long gone -
Driven out by lofty reformers,
Timbers perished, vaults collapsed,
Stained glass ground back to sand.

No more the sound of the pig's squeal,
Slaughtered to fatten greedy monks.
No more the sound of the bell tolling,
Its mournful peal heard for miles around.

The bell called their sated bodies to prostrate
Themselves, thanking God for plentiful pork.
Fattened against the winter chill, warmed by
Deep red, raw and lusty drafts of wine.

Grass now grows where the canteen once was,
Fertile from many a spilled pot of goodness,
Idle hands fumbled from out their coarse robes,
Dropping goodness on the ground, in disregard.

And so it came to this. Proud abbey, so finely crafted,
In the best of local stone, glowing reddish-brown
In the soft evening light, grey in cold winter storms,
With little to block the cold, but ale and the fat of pork.

Here once chanted monks in deft unison, or sang
Their beloved Gregorian chants, echoed off the stone,
Vaults that sent plaintiff sound, destined for heaven,
Bouncing bank on the ears of those who chanted it.

Now but a lofty perch for occasional passing crows,
And, in winter, some resistance for the howling wind.
Its graveyards holding the secrets of bygone days,
Cottagers, before their eyes, sad memento mori.

-John Walford, for Andrew Herther, in thanks for stirring my heart, through his photography, with fond memories of Scotland and the Border Country,
July 13, 2011.

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I am a British-born, art historian, teaching in the USA; I studied law, in England,1964-68; worked part-time in the art world, 1968-69; then studied art history at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, 1969-76; completed my Ph.D. diss. at the University of Cambridge, 1981; moved to the States in 1981, and have since written, or co-authored, other books. I am currently studying satire in Netherlandish art. My wife, Maria, was born in Milan, Italy, where she worked as an interpreter, in business; she spent seven years in Switzerland, at the University of Lausanne, 1963-70. She came to Amsterdam in 1971, and we soon married. She is a wife, mother, literary critic, of Italian (and French) literature, and completed her Ph. D. diss. in 2002, at the University of Chicago, on Cesare Pavese and His Critics. We have three married children, and eight grandchildren, all of whom we excessively adore! I welcome dialog about art, photography, human behavior, beliefs, and motivation from all comers, regardless of race, color, gender, orientation, values, or beliefs. This is to be a site for words and images, as vehicles of human expression, around topics of mutual interest.

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