I have always been fascinated by old deserted farms, cottages and even the ruins of what were once the grand mansions of aristocracy now lying miserably derelict and dangerous in their decadence. The Irish countryside is full of them! It is interesting how a house will soon fall to wreck and ruin because it is no longer occupied, a phenomenon known as ‘entropy’ or the ‘law of universal decay.’ I once explored the rooms of an old cottage in the Mourne Mountains which lay deserted and abandoned like the Marie Celeste. Within its walls lay the writings of those who had once lived there; I felt strangely saddened by the atmosphere and those possessions, now ruined by the lashing rain which had long since infiltrated the cottage in many places. How sad to think that if those people were still living there, the cottage would not have fallen to ruin…

Surely without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we too would face ultimate destruction?

A man, rich in prestige and the things of this world, but without Christ, is as without hope and decadent, as the ruins of any great house, but if he can humbly come to the Lord, and truly say with the Psalmist… “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow,” (Psalm 51v7), then the Lord will come in strength, and fill that heart with His presence!  I wrote the poem ‘Derelict’ many years ago now…

I see them everywhere,

The empty houses, the derelict houses,

In various stages of ruin,

But the end of them all is the same –

If they are never occupied again.

Birds nest in their chimneys,

Cattle walk in windowless living rooms,

Where children, long since dead, laughed and ate.

Rats nest in ancient fireplaces,

Stoked years ago by willing hands,

But the last flame died when love had gone.

Now weary travellers shelter from rain

Within their shadowy walls,

Once witness to the joy and tears of life.

But in time they start to crumble,

Becoming decadent, dangerous,

Worse than useless.

Even the ruins of what were once

The grand mansions of aristocracy

Now lie sadly decomposing, with weeds and fungus

 Sprouting from their tarnished walls.

And one bleak day, with stones

And memories washed away by time,

The wind will whisper in a space

That once was home.

I see them everywhere –

They are like a stage without actors,

A person with no personality,

A plan without a purpose,

A body without a soul,

Man without God…

No indwelling Presence

To nurture, love and fill with warmth…

The second law of thermodynamics:

All things left to themselves…

Will eventually decay.

© Elizabeth Burke


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