Christ Carrying the Cross
—a painting by Stanley Spencer, 1920
And we saw someone passing below,
we who jammed the sash of each high window
like twins sprouted from a common waist.
And it was the quiet work below
we noticed first, something no one called
suffering, though it seemed what we’d been called
to bear. We watched ladders, crooked hands, heard
talk proceed as always, saw through old
remarkable eyes. Why, then, be startled
to find ourselves wingèd, some changed world
in the making along ivy and brick?
Someone pulled that slow cross to a hill.
Sir Stanley Spencer (1891–1959) was undoubtedly one of the most admired and influential English painters of the twentieth century. Cookham was a major influence on both his life and painting and his reference to the place as ‘a village in Heaven’ is reflected in his famous series of paintings of Biblical scenes featuring local people.
The 2017 Cookham Festival Stanley Spencer Poetry Competition invited poets to find inspiration for their own art in the work of this remarkable man. “Christ Carrying the Cross” is the winner of The Maidenhead Advertiser Award of The 2017 Cookham Festival Stanley Spencer Poetry Competition. A selection from the entries to the competition is published in Stanley Spencer Poems An Anthology.