by Anthony Anaxagorou

Anthony Anaxagorou has published eight volumes of poetry, most recently Heterogenous, and founded the Out-Spoken live music and poetry night.

The poem makes an attempt at capturing the duality that is often prevalent when power and humanism are pitted against each other, particularly in a historical and nationalistic context. On the morning of our tour around St Paul’s I was profoundly struck by just how minuscule and almost insignificant Florence Nightingale’s monument appeared to be when buffered between the two mighty tombs of Admiral Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington.

Immediately I thought of just how symbolic the arrangement in the crypt was made to seem, and the various ways the integrity and heroism of the selfless and philanthropic somehow always surpassed or was made to feel peripheral when contrasted with the legacy associated with military men and their innumerous acts of valor during war.

Yet what I found maybe even more compelling was the deep autumnal color of the marble coupled with its haunting simplicity. There is something irrevocably benign and tender about the posture of both nurse and patient, while positioned either side of Florence sit a pair of overseeing polished mountains containing the heavy names of two men whose business was far removed from the preservation of life.

The Nurse, The Admiral and The Duke

Blessed Are The Merciful

by Anthony Anaxagorou


Angel-winged window, autumnal

body of bloodless marble gathered by time

to hold stillness by its cavernous white light.


She, her, Florence, gives tenderness

to the half man who is preparing  

to challenge the metal gates of heaven.


She, her, Florence knows that dying

was embroidered by the fabrics of loneliness –

how it steals something more


                                                                        to provide something less.


Two giant monuments positioned either side,

almost as if imposing with striking indifference

on such enclosed and immortal agony.


Nelson                                       Wellington


such repute for men adorned by battle,

whose bodies live to carry the weight

of a million defeated veins.


A small bugle sounds somewhere overhead,

the clank and puncture of steadfast armour -  

how the living become the gone, and the war


                                           and the war and the war


will shroud them in valiant verse, in sundry

anthems of nationhood and good. How it will

remember them like paths leading out of a maze,


remember them like the neat pages of history books,

it will call them by their legacy and build columns

which rupture firmaments to peak at the summit of God


and to glorify the indelible cold tide

of war and victory and loss


while she, her, Florence lays her white face

onto the dying man’s chest like ointment, her ear

pressed onto his heart with a tear to help soften his gown.


Two rocky giants, Nelson & Wellington,

immune to such trivial things continue

their death from within the polish of their tombs.


A cathedral bell loiters around the hour,

a dandelion seed lifts to colonise new ground,

a street sweeper coughs into the night’s chest


startling the last dove

who runs to tell the moon

the news.  

Commissioned by Poet in the City and St Paul's Cathedral for Under the Skin 2016 ©
Audio recordings by Kieran Lucas. Photographs by Graham Lacdao.