Twixt Compton and Winchester, as I walked along the way
I came across a tattered man sitting there this day
He wanted work or so he said, I had some doubt myself
A certain air that he gave off suggested workshy stealth.
His life was once in Hounslow, though more I never learned
He nothing knew of life or world, ‘cept that which paper editors churned.
We walked along together and down Itchen Lane he lead
Whereupon my companion walker, received a horn of ale and bread
I asked why I nay had received the bounty that I saw
To which the porter said to me, ‘you have to ask for sure.’
So this I did quite pleasantly, I asked ‘wayfarer’s dole’
And sure enough I got my fill, I thought, ‘well bless my soul.’
I was at the Hospice of St Cross, in the Hampshire countryside
And respite from my travels left me truly satisfied
For Seven Hundred and Ninety years they’ve helped the lowly few
The oldest alms-house in England, the Lord’s work they still do.
Thirteen good, poor Brethren, with silver crosses on their breast
That cross is only cut from their gown when they’re finally laid to rest.
And so it has been for all of these years, and evermore shall be
A Charter granted those years ago, in perpetuity
And every cross that is removed goes to a Brother new
Who wait their turn in patience, for there’s a lengthy queue.
And as a smiling Brother says, ‘Such luck we feel when here.’
We end our days in servitude to our Lord who is so near.
Amidst the callousness of these days, and the cruelty of so many men
The poorest of Brethren of St Cross, give noble charity as they did back then
To the wayfarers of the open road, to the poor and wretched they give
That pious love for the poorest souls so better their lives to live
Eight centuries on the Charter stays, and Brethren still feed the poor
Such Kindness glows and humbles me as I knock on the Hallowed door.
©Joe Wilson – The Hospice of St Cross…2015
I wrote this poem after being inspired by the wonderful book of his travels
‘In Search of England’ by H V Morton (1927). They are my words, but they remain of course, his thoughts. He might be thoroughly disheartened travelling around today’s England.