Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Carmelite House

On Posterngate Carmelite House was built in 1826 as an almshouse for twenty-three seamen and wives. It was named after the Carmelite order of monks who used to have a monastery or some such around here before being suppressed when religion got nationalised in the 16th century. Carmelites were also known as white friars hence Whitefriargate. The building was converted into offices in the 1950's.

After I posted the above I came across the following from Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary.

CARMELITE, n. A mendicant friar of the order of Mount Carmel.

As Death was a-riding out one day,
Across Mount Camel he took his way,
     Where he met a mendicant monk,
     Some three or four quarters drunk,
With a holy leer and a pious grin,
Ragged and fat and as saucy as sin,
     Who held out his hands and cried:
"Give, give in Charity's name, I pray.
Give in the name of the Church. O give,
Give that her holy sons may live!"
     And Death replied,
     Smiling long and wide:
"I'll give, holy father, I'll give thee—a ride."

     With a rattle and bang
     Of his bones, he sprang
From his famous Pale Horse, with his spear;
     By the neck and the foot
     Seized the fellow, and put
Him astride with his face to the rear.

The Monarch laughed loud with a sound that fell
Like clods on the coffin's sounding shell:
"Ho, ho! A beggar on horseback, they say,
     Will ride to the devil!"—and thump
     Fell the flat of his dart on the rump
Of the charger, which galloped away.

Faster and faster and faster it flew,
Till the rocks and the flocks and the trees that grew
By the road were dim and blended and blue
     To the wild, wild eyes
     Of the rider—in size
     Resembling a couple of blackberry pies.
Death laughed again, as a tomb might laugh
     At a burial service spoiled,
     And the mourners' intentions foiled
     By the body erecting
     Its head and objecting
To further proceedings in its behalf.

Many a year and many a day
Have passed since these events away.
The monk has long been a dusty corse,
And Death has never recovered his horse.
     For the friar got hold of its tail,
     And steered it within the pale
Of the monastery gray,
Where the beast was stabled and fed
With barley and oil and bread
Till fatter it grew than the fattest friar,
And so in due course was appointed Prior.


  1. Carmel is a fairly common name amongst Irish women so I thought that Mount Carmel was an instruction!