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A dolphin, perhaps

Location: Norwich Castle, Castle Hill, Norwich, NR1 3JU

Map showing location of Norwich Castle

The Bigod Arch entrance to the castle keep features carvings of several animals, including one that’s hard to make out. It is, perhaps, a dolphin.

Listen to the poem

Read the poem

Perhaps the dolphin is there to tell us something is coming.

Carved above our heads is a series
of noble scenes: a knight hunts 
a boar with his hounds, while another kills
a stag. A third knight kneels before the king. 
They are scenes of blood and earth
and honour, full of forests and arrows
and the sound of hoofbeats. But off to the side, 
there is – perhaps – a dolphin.

Perhaps the dolphin is there to tell us something.

Perhaps, this dolphin bears
witness to the hunt, perhaps it doesn’t see. 
Perhaps the dolphin sings the songs of poets
into the hall, or perhaps the dolphin swims, 
swifter than any other animal, through the muddied
political waters of the keep to meet instead
the common people outside. 

Perhaps the dolphin is there to tell us – 

Perhaps the dolphin aligns itself with the angels
that may also not be there. Or perhaps it envies Pegasus
his wings, the dragon its wings, the eagle its wings. 
Perhaps the dolphin wants to know what it is to fly, 
which is why it might be up here, over our heads, 
watching us walk through the door. 

Perhaps the dolphin is there.

Perhaps it tired of the murky salty waters
and asked instead to be made of stone, and steadied. 
Or perhaps its place above the door is the leap that foretells
the storm, its own crumbling face a precursor
to the tumble of stone and timber that awaits the keep. 


Follow the trail

Go to Norwich Market for poem 6: Carnival