12 January 2022


Lead-glazed floor tiling from Meaux Abbey - unearthed in 1955
Now in the possession of The British Museum.

Hugonis de Leven was the fifteenth abbot of Meaux (Melsa)- a Cistercian abbey in the heart of East Yorkshire. He was most probably born around 1300 and was claimed by The Black Death in 1349, ten years after his appointment. Little is known of him - especially as the five pages about his abbacy in "Chronica Monasterii de Melsa, a Fundatione usque ad Annum 1396" by Thomas de Burton (d. 1437) were ripped from the original manuscript long ago.


Hugh de Leven

There where  crows announced
Countless days and  still nights
Were made unquiet by
Hungry waves
Gorging on the coast
Of Holderness,
We prospered
And The Lord was munificent.
Cognizance came of blackness
Moving cross foreign lands
Then reaping  London
Like a scythe
And we, glad to be alive,
Praised The Lord of Mercy.
How came The Pestilence
To Meaux
None doth know
But by the first snow
Death had taken half of us
To paradise.
Wise Hugh writhed in his cot
As I nursed him
Spared and steered by The Lord.
We sank his pustulous vessel
Into the chancel
By Adam de Skyrne
Who were’t abbot
In my father’s time
And flung quicklime
Into the hole,
Proffering prayers for The Lord to attend
In sure anticipation of
The End.


  1. I like this very much. You've done a good job of placing the reader in the moment.

    1. Thanks for your interest Kelly - and for appreciating my poem.

  2. Your last line brought me up with a start, recalling Thomas a Kempis:
    *Remember always your end, and that time lost does not return.*

    In my youth I was reading Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer and a wise lady told me to ditch that shallow stuff and read Kempis.
    What did Kempis have to say? I asked belligerently.
    *Nature is cunning, it tricks and deceives people, and has its own interest at heart,* she quoted.

    Kempis was commending supernatural grace over our fallen natures.
    Hugh de Leven would have agreed even as he writhed in his cot (strong image).

    Saint Augustine said this world for all it beauty is like a second-class, flea-bitten hotel.

    *One short sleep past, we wake eternally.
    And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.*

    John Donne.
    Holy Sonnets: Death, be not Proud.
    Poetry Foundation, online.

  3. Anonymous10:20 pm

    It's is hard enough to write poetry in modern English, so well done with your old English effort.

  4. That is a very fine poem, Mr. P.

  5. This -- THIS -- should be the required reading in this time. Covid comes for us all, but luckily we known how came the pestilence and those of us in Paradise have had the vaccine for the lords of science are, indeed, munificent.

  6. Thank you for sharing another one of your poems with us, Neil. I am not per se a poetry lover, but this one is really special.

    I wonder why the pages about Hugh de Leven's abbacy were ripped from the manuscript. Did someone hold a grudge against him? What did he do to warrant such treatment?

  7. Excellent poem, catching the mood of the moment.

  8. So evocative YP. I could just imagine the Monk, exhausted after nursing the sick Hugh, scratching out his thoughts by the light of a guttering candle. Wondering if he would be next to be taken by the wretched plague.
    I wonder what happened to those five missing pages - what would they tell us?

  9. Love that word munificent. It's a very good poem.

  10. Excellent! I love the medieval flavor of the language. Interesting that Hugh de Leven's pages were torn from history. He must have made someone angry! Great floor tiles, too. I wonder if I've seen those in the museum? (It's been a while.)

  11. This was wonderful, Neil.


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