Words of life in the house of death
One week ago I visited the University of Swansea on my way home from Wales. With a little bit of time on my hands, I visited the wonderful Taliesin Arts Centre. The basement houses the University’s magnificent Egyptology collection in the lower floors. I worked my way through the House of the Dead -replete with amulets and sarcophagi, and then up into the House of the Living – with its jewellery and household objects.
From there I emerged into the Oriel Ceri Richards art gallery, with its wonderful exhibition of poetry and paintings by retired Parish Priest Andrew Vessey. Vessey’s paintings are full of colour and vigour, and accompany his poems perfectly. As the paintings engage the eye, so the words of his poems engage the imagination. In fact, it was almost like viewing his work in a kind of stereo – where the canvas of the eye and the canvas of the mind were stimulated in equal measure.
My particular favourite amongst the poems was Annunciation, the first verse of which appears below:
Beside the path there is a place for sitting
Canopied by cedar wood and coolest greens
Away from goats and sultry clamour.
When tasks are done and all one does is come to stare
While roses bud and heavy honeysuckle frames
The view, she would sit so still until,
Interrupted, she followed the stranger
With a waterfall voice, who calmly insisted “come walk with me”
Beautiful, isn’t it? In his own description of the work, Andrew Vessey describes the purpose of the poems and paintings as “an entry to that same greater understanding which God longs for us and for which we must each make time”. What a pleasant contrast to the desperate clawings for immortality in the House of the Dead below