|Just opposite the
elegant Custom House
So feasibly attributed to Wren
We watched the racketting pile-driver
Man-shouldered into place
By greasy caps and coats with pennant linings
Fluttering heraldic in the north-east wind.
on the quay a square-hewn stake
Extracted from the past - a broken tooth
Stained at the root - the crude support
Of civic splendour in the years of grace.
Explore now, as a freak tide might explore
This town that history could have made a city,
Swirl round the leaning pillars of this church
That could be a cathedral, then move on,
Inquisitive as water,
Over the docks, across the squares,
Into courtyards, under entrances.
Leave tides below, and climb
The winding centuries of a merchantís watchtower
To scan the wide way to the wider sea
For pennants fluttering in the north-east wind.
Step down to what the tides have left behind:
In the marsh-sunken chapel-of-ease
Two Dutch-scrubbed likenesses,
A merchant and his wife, as shrewd
And thrifty as the north-east wind,
Embedded in the local mud - essential
Supporters of armorial elegance.