Will Gatti & Daniel Finn


I saw two knights come riding by

In the cool side chapel of a honey-pot cathedral you can sit and wait, while in ones and twos people drift by. Some, like you, linger but most drift on, looking at plaques, staring up at the ceiling, the columns, the light, the altar… You too are looking up, but at a clock: a mechanical dream, a wheel with wheels and more wheels, all turning and ticking, edging past the sun, the moon and the stars…

You want the quarter hour to strike because then, above the crawling dial with its different types of time, on a platform of their own, two jousting knights will suddenly wheel out and pass each other, once and then again: Bam! And one is whacked backwards. Then around they come again.

Every fifteen minutes they fight this joust and the same knight, pink cheeked and silver armoured, topples the dark knight. Shouldn’t the maker of the clock and the rich and holy benefactors have noticed that there is no defeat, no absolute victory? No matter how many times he falls, the dark knight comes riding back.

And one day, one day somewhere on the tip of time, the white knight with his pink cheeks will be surprised to find his lance breaking and the dark knight sweeping past him. He might hear the whistle of the blade that slices off his head and, undead, he might hear the tinkle of his own helmet hitting the stony chapel floor and the gasps of those sitting there, waiting for some miracle to happen.

And that was it: the dark knight, after a million million jousts, won the fight. That was the miracle. Not quite what was expected, but maybe that’s the way with miracles.

P.S. You probably know I’m writing about the famous ‘jouster’ clock in Wells Cathedral. If you haven’t seen it go and have a look.

P.P.S. Simon Armitage has written a great poem about it.