English poetry

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THE CARDINAL LOOKS BACK

THE CARDINAL LOOKS BACK

I was a good father to my people,

Their houses among the terraced hills

Adored God every day, grape-clusters on the vines

Made Christ’s blood richer in the goblet

My father gave me: the chased silver had vines

Round the stem and Cellini made it,

‘Let him take it to Rome’, he had said,

‘The Pope will adore it.’ The backs of my people

Bent as I held it aloft with the Host,

The silver blazed in our eyes like the sun,

Their lips were cracked as they sipped

The delicate wine, the crook of my finger already

Held the ring of a Bishop but I would not go;

‘When the harvest is over’, I said, let me bless

The gathered grapes, I love to watch the purple juice

Flowing from under their feet and the feast after.

But my father called, I left my people

With a sot who embarrassed the Bishop.

I was not long in my see, two Popes died quickly

And my father’s whispers never ceased, Rome called

And I was Cardinal at last. It is hot, fever-ridden,

No-one dare speak for the ears of spies;

I toss at night in my high room through my window

The villa’d hills, my private chapel has the goblet,

I hear my people starved in a famine,

Their harvest blighted for three years.



Poem THE CARDINAL LOOKS BACK - Barry Tebb