(Visitors' Book at Montacute church)
You are meant to exclaim. The church
Expects it of you. Bedding plants
And polished brass anticipate a word.
Visitors jot a name,
A nationality, briskly enough,
But find Remarks beyond them.
I love English churches!
Says Friedrichshafen expansively.
The English are more backward. They come,
Certainly, from Spalding, Westbury-on-Trym,
The Isle of Wight; but all the words
They know are: Very Lovely; Very Peaceful; Nice.
A giggling gaggle from Torquay Grammar,
All pretending they can't spell beautiful, concoct
A private joke about the invisible organ.
A civilised voice from Cambridge
Especially noticed the beautiful churchyard.
Someone from Dudley, whose writing suggests tight shoes,
Reported Nice and Cool. The young entry
Yelp their staccato approval:
Super! Fantastic! Jesus Lives! Ace!
But what they found,
Whatever it was, wasn't what
They say. In the beginning,
We know, the word, but not here,
Land of the perpetually-flowering cliché,
The rigid lip. Our fathers who piled
Stone upon stone, our mothers
Who stitched the hassocks, our cousins
Whose bones lie smooth, harmonious around —
However majestic their gifts, comely their living,
Their words would be thin like ours; they would join
In our inarticulate anthem: Very Cosy.
From The Poetry Review January 1984.
Reproduced with permission from R V Bailey. The poem is available in U. A. Fanthorpe, New and Collected Poems (Enitharmon, 2010).