The Palace burnt out within the hour.
Molten glass in rivers ran down steps ablaze.
No-one could save it.
A giant Guy Fawkes whose framework only remained;
Its glassy eyes melted. Like a funeral pyre
Where only the bones can be seen.
Sixty years later the unburied skeleton remains.
Neglected, there is no peace in death.
Cannibalised and graffitied.
There are no gardens and no fountains now.
Way off, one headless statue breaks up the field;
Nearer , two lions, remnants of the past, dominate.
Walking up the steps you must imagine
Huge domes, great rooms, gigantic structures –
And not a corpse , unburied, which now it is.
Some walls like shattered ramparts, some alcoves
Like sentry boxes long deserted, surmount the steps.
You raise your eyes and see a shapeless mound of earth;
No stately pleasure dome. Hundred year old ghosts silently
Climb with you , visiting the treasures of their Crystal Palace.
The concerts, the exhibitions…long gone:
Symbols of an Empire; epitome of greatness.
A hundred years of triumph celebrated in glass.
The mighty body`s accoutrements have gone,
The vestments vanished in fire, consuming the corpse.
Flame reclaimed the hill as cremating fire reclaims its own.
I walk the steps with the ghosts unseen, unheard,
Of happier times, who never knew in life
The hellish heat, destruction`s awesome roars.
I see the winter sky illumined, hear
The crash of transepts. England`s most tragic fire.
I am a spiritual witness.
I reach the top and look round at desolation.
I see the streets, with people packed, crowds on the lawns
That November night. This vision of the past appals
For time does not have a stop.
I am alone with the green mound, now zig-zag pathed,
With decaying lions and headless Romans
except for Paxton, the creator, who gazes down from elevated pedestal
with sad expression, upon his ruined masterpiece.
© A.B. Finlay Ph.D.