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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 8, Number 2, April 2014

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Claire Everett
Northallerton, North Yorkshire, UK


Jervaulx Abbey

a fighting ship
listing in a sunrise cloud . . .
the May tree
heavy with blossom
and a jackdaw’s complaint

this hill-sheltered dale
a sketchbook in the lap
of tranquility . . .
here, a hand might pause
for the curlew’s cry

a line
softer than the ewe’s tread
a well-worn path
flanks the river . . .
the lamb, its mother

not until
aubretia’s purple blooms
this ruined sconce . . .
to a shire’s very cloisters
a palette of light

making a frame
of forefingers and thumbs:
arcading
and clerestory, lit with broom
—oh sky, be still!

ten thousand moons
have come and gone . . .
into a church
of wildflowers
the brothers’ night doorway

the stub-ends
of a wove paper day . . .
all too briefly
a robin singing
from the embalming stone

To peer over the shoulder of the past and realise that pencilled line might well be this very track, lately dappled with spotted orchids, swept by sand martins. But then, with a clean sheet outspread and an idle hand as paperweight, they were surely swallows streaming overhead, weaving summer’s end. And plumes of smoke spoke of men in the corn fields, burning stubble.

A stopover on the Grand Tour. Another preliminary sketch. Not then the commemorative seat, nor the violets and forget-me-nots in quite such profusion, but this—ah, this! The place where two rivers meet. As if some god of green, had once held his arms at full stretch, and declared, “this wide!”

Honeysuckle and ivy, by turns, clambering for a view of the greener beyond. No other canvas for this daughter of Byland. Washed here, stippled there, with the seasons’ ever-changing hues.

And then, like the abbot’s grave, the gilded rood-screen, the window glass . . . to other parishes, chasing the light.


Author’s Notes:

JMW Turner RA (1775-1851) famed for his landscapes and watercolours and often attributed with sowing the seeds of Impressionism, first visited Yorkshire in 1797. So began his fascination with the landscape of a county which he found spiritually satisfying and endlessly inspiring. While his contemporaries, Wordsworth and Coleridge, made poetry of the hills and dales, the desolate moors and the rugged coastline, Turner was keen to capture them in his inimitable way, and in so doing, opened the door to a public eager to follow in his footsteps and explore parts of their own country that had, until now, been shrouded in mystery.

A virtual gallery of Turner’s Yorkshire-inspired sketches and paintings can be found at the Yorkshire website.

In 1816, as part of his Grand Tour of Yorkshire for the history of York series, Turner visited Jervaulx Abbey. Sketches made one August/September day can be viewed at the Tate online gallery.

Once a Cistercian Monastery, established in 1156, the Abbey was ravaged and pillaged with particular severity during the Dissolution of the Monasteries—its last abbot had been imprisoned in the Tower of London, and finally hanged, drawn and quartered alongside his ‘accomplices’, for his part in the Pilgrimage of Grace (a protest against Henry VIII’s policy). His name, inscribed by himself on the wall of his cell —“ADAM SEDBAR. ABBAS JOREVALL 1537”—can be seen to this day. Set in the tranquil Vale of Ure, the Abbey ruins, now privately owned, have lost the battle with nature and are home to some 180 varieties of wildflower. The world-famous Wensleydale cheese was first made by the monks of Jervaulx.

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