House!

The windows up on the second floor
Peered out through the mist at dawn,
Through what seemed a couple of eyelids,
Peeping out, when the blinds were drawn,
They scanned to the far horizon
Past the billows and foaming waves,
As if to seek a solution
As they scowled from their architraves.

‘How long, how long, ' was the question that
Had hung in the air for years,
How long to a sure destruction like
A fabric, when it tears?
The sea surged up to its doorstep with
The king tide at its peak,
And whispered its evil mantra, ‘House!
You haven't another week.'

The House had stood five hundred years,
It had seen them come and go,
The coaches bringing their ministers
Of church and state, below,
Armies had been sequestered there
Beneath the sheltered eaves
Conspiring to hide the redcoats ‘til
The rebels made them leave.

It had sheltered friend and foe in there,
And had made no judgement call,
Its spacious rooms had been welcoming
To anyone there at all,
But now that its greatest enemy
Was surging at the lea,
‘Who will come to my aid at last
To save me from the sea? '

The time was once when the sea lay back
A mile or so from the shore,
But long decades of its slow attack
Saw it conquer, more and more,
Its progress so very gradual
That some generations hence,
Each single lifetime lost just yards
From its seaward farmland fence.

A wall of sticks and boulders rose
That the sea had overcome,
Had buried under its surges while
The work was being done,
A hill of sand and flotsam that
Was bound by bush and tree,
But the sea reclaimed its contraband
Washed the sand back out to sea.

And now, five hundred years had gone
The tide lapped at the brick,
And softened the old foundations as
The window-eyes looked bleak,
The king tide then had abated and
Sank back, to mutter its lack,
‘Have no fear, ' it grated, ‘House!
For I shall be coming back! '

But with the sea lying dormant,
Men approached with great machines,
With bulldozers and graders and
Huge tip-trucks in a stream,
And when the sea had resumed again
With its king tide of assault,
It beat forlorn on a concrete wall
With pathways of asphalt.

The windows up on the second floor
Peered out through the mist at dawn,
Through what seemed a couple of eyelids,
Peeping out, when the blinds were drawn,
The rain had hidden a couple of tears
As the House had heard men say:
‘We have to preserve our history,
And keep the sea in the bay! '

5 November 2014

by David Lewis Paget

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