St Francis and the Birds

Stanley Spencer

Cookham
1935
The birds look skyward
To the coming Messiah.
The chickens chatter,
Geese gaze,
Fan-tail pigeons
Congregate
On the pantiles.

Between ‘Fernlea’
And ‘The Nest’
Strides the saint
In dressing-gown habit.
Boy ahead.
Woman behind,
Eyes shielded from the divine sun
By an upraised arm
And daisy bouquet.

And the hands.
The hands turned
Both to the Son
And to the birds.
The pantiles gleam
On this summer day.
The slippered saint reaches,
On tip-toe,
To his Maker.

© Martin Porter 1998

St Francis and the Birds is based on a painting by Stanley Spencer held in the Tate gallery. The painting is, simply put, superb and was rejected by the Royal Academy in 1935. I have tried to keep the poem simple to reflect Spencer’s style.

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