Marble is stone, haunted.
Quiet as the columns of the vault
I removed my hat, in solemn reticence;
I felt the daylight hush as I approached
The unkissed interior of the basilica.
My warmth was ushered out by a deathly hand,
And marble is song, echoed.
A lady in blue, with child, asked me to leave
Or cross my heart and hope to die.
How still and pale was her command.
I turned to leave, my footfalls skipped like stones
And I’m the echo, haunted.
This is T. S. Eliot all over, in form and theme. But it’s predominantly about a Catholic mindset which haunts me still. You could say that I am a recovering Catholic. I can’t enter a basilica without feeling a quiet guilt, a sense of repentance, and a divine presence.
Whilst travelling in Italy as a student I was drawn to the inspired, dreamlike churches much like a moth to a flame, or a convict to the scene of the crime. The awe and majesty, all that opulence and artistic design, was tempered by something intimate and cold.