There's an old stone church in Howfen town...

There’s an old stone church in Howfen town…

There’s an old stone church in Howfen Town been there these many years, and in its quiet solitude there’s been shed many tears. With Christenings, weddings, funerals too all special services there, and Sunday morning come rain or shine, the pews are never bare.

My sister, she got married there way back in sixty-seven, a perfect match folks said of them (they’re still in seventh-heaven). The kids have come and grown up well, the world they’ve traveled anon, but if you ask them one by one, they’d still call Howfen home.

Beside the church around the back is a garden quiet and still, it lies behind the belfry wall, you can find it if you will. There are several plain memorial stones all settled in their place, with names and dates engraved thereon, past lives once lived a-pace.

Walk down the path up to the top and around a little blind, about halfway down, not too far mind, this little gem you’ll find. “Pollie Hurst” it says on top, with two dates etched below, “Nineteen Seventeen to Seventy Nine” the stone would have us know.

Another name in similar vein is ‘graved so you can see, “James Hurst” it very simply states, “Nineteen Twelve to Ninety-Three.” A simple stone for simple folk that hides so much to me, for how could so much living be compressed where none can see?

What of their family, kin and friends and those of other names, are these made up or were they real, this Pollie Hurst with James? What were they like when they were young, were they smitten to the core? Would they worry every now and then what the future had in store?

Two wars from hell they both came through, ‘eighteen and ‘forty-five, they went from horse and buggies to watching space-ships come alive. And when they wed, as sure they did, did family celebrate, their parents, uncles, cousins too, did they participate?

Where have they gone then all those folks who helped shape these young lives, are they lost like these among the stones, never more to be revived?

I remember once a poem writ about a wealthy desert king, his name was Ozymandias and he had everything. The poem told about his life and how it might have been, if we but knew who this man was and all the things he’d seen.

Alas two trunkless legs of stone are all that’s standing now, half-sunk, a shattered visage lies and that of wrinkled brow. The sneering lip of cold command still lies upon that stone, the sculptor well those passions read as he shaped that face alone.

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed no more the world they rule, there’s nothing left but shifting sands, the vanity of a fool. Upon the base engraved of old these ageless words appear, “My name is Ozymandias King of Kings, look on my works ye mighty and despair!”

Twas not for lack of effort that his people left him there, forsaken and forgotten in the desert sands so bare. For while he ruled men bowed to him and did all that he asked, fought wars, built castles, came and went, there’s nothing that he lacked.

But now we see him dead and gone his buildings all forlorn, without those verses written there we’d never know he was born. For from the dust we came and so to the dust we’ll go, and the structures that we build will melt away like snow.

Don’t leave behind things that decay, that have no form or rhyme, it’s what men say about your life that stands the test of time. So just make sure when we are gone that generations know, it wasn’t buildings that we left on earth down here below.

For life’s achievement through and through when all is said and done, is what we did for fellow-man to remember when we’re gone…

So, back to Pollie Hurst and James, those names on the other stone, no greater Queen nor mightier King ever graced a more humble throne. Those lives before us on that base, no matter how compressed, are memories of the things they did, the many lives they blessed.

No lonely, boundless shifting sands for them the eye will see, no mighty granite edifice sinking slowly in a sandy sea. An English garden, an old stone church and quiet solitude is where we come to spend some time in silent gratitude.

There's a garden quiet and still...

There’s a garden quiet and still…

And standing there, the air so still, the ancient oaks around, beyond the wall across the brook, the rolling hills abound. A cuckoo calls, the swallows flit, the church bell chimes to seven, I close my eyes in silent prayer, a quiet requiem.

My boys? Well they never knew that Pollie Hurst with James, but like that desert king of old now at least they know their names. And that old church it stands there still, it’s there for all to see, and from afar o’er Texas plains that garden beckons me.



“Howfen” is the colloquial name for my hometown Westhoughton, once a small market town nestled under the West Pennines in Lancashire, England, now a commuter community for Manchester, Liverpool and other large cities and towns.

“Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley is widely available for viewing on the internet.

Entire content Copyright (C) 2011 by Dennis G. Hurst.

Face of Jesus by Richard Hook

Soli Deo Gloria!