Tag Archives: night

4 April, My vocation today XVI: Friendship and wisdom.

The eighteenth century poet Edward Young seems to have been a poor sleeper! Did he lie awake in the dark, composing and memorising his verses to write them out in the morning, or keep a lit candle at his bedside, or fumble with flint and tinder box to strike a light? It’s clear that he did not trust solitary philosophising, but counted on discussion with friends to arrive at truth.

And if you raise an eyebrow at calling this post ‘my vocation today’, go back and read about the humble generosity of books. Writers’ vocation can live on after death, awaiting a new companion when a book is opened. Let’s read what Edward Young has to say to us about flesh and blood friendship and its challenges to see through another’s eyes. Lorenzo is an imaginary friend.

How often we talk’d down the summer’s sun,  
And cool’d our passions by the breezy stream! 
How often thaw’d and shorten’d winter’s eve, 
By conflict kind, that struck out latent truth, 
Best found, so sought; to the recluse more coy! 
Thoughts disentangle passing o’er the lip; 
Clean runs the thread; if not, ’tis thrown away, 
Or kept to tie up nonsense for a song.

Know’st thou, Lorenzo! what a friend contains? 
As bees mix’d nectar draw from fragrant flowers, 
So men from friendship, wisdom and delight; 
Twins tied by Nature, if they part, they die. 
Hast thou no friend to set thy mind abroach? 
Good sense will stagnate. Thoughts shut up, want air, 
And spoil, like bales unopen’d to the sun. 
Had thought been all, sweet speech had been denied; 
Speech, thought’s canal! speech, thought’s criterion too! 
Thought in the mine, may come forth gold, or dross; 
When coin’d in words, we know its real worth."
 
From " Night Thoughts" by Edward Young.

The other day I called on a friend who had a few worries on her plate, ‘thoughts shut up’ began to ‘disentangle passing o’er the lip’. We draw wisdom and delight from friendship because of the trust between us, the safe space we can offer each other, the chance to reflect on a bigger picture of whatever is worrying us.

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Filed under Daily Reflections, Lent, poetry

27 February: Rain, midnight rain.

Image from SJC

Edward Thomas would walk and walk through the night for the sake of solitude. Tonight, though, he is holed up in a cabin with nothing but the wild rain. Like Saint Francis, he welcomes death, but right now is far from loved ones – or are there only those he once loved?

If there is consciousness of heaven which we can accept or unthinkingly reject, there is an awareness of hell, or of nothingness, that the likes of Edward Thomas and other poets must face down. And that process starts, tentatively, with thinking of other people, thoughts that become prayers for those in need, those whom, deeper down than his despair, he loves still (as we see from other poems.)

Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain 
On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me 
Remembering again that I shall die 
And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks 
For washing me cleaner than I have been 
Since I was born into this solitude. 
Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon: 
But here I pray that none whom once I loved 
Is dying to-night or lying still awake 
Solitary, listening to the rain, 
Either in pain or thus in sympathy 
Helpless among the living and the dead, 
Like a cold water among broken reeds, 
Myriads of broken reeds all still and stiff, 
Like me who have no love which this wild rain 
Has not dissolved except the love of death, 
If love it be towards what is perfect and 
Cannot, the tempest tells me, disappoint.
 
"HOME" by Edward Thomas

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27 October: You see our best side

The view from Dylan’s boathouse study in Laugharne, Wales, the model for the little town of the poem.

It is Dylan Thomas’s birthday, a time to listen to him and ‘love the words’ that came to him. Do not be deceived by the simplicity of the Reverend Eli Jenkins’ evening poem from Under Milk Wood. Every word is meant both by Eli and by his earthly creator, Dylan Thomas who wrote “for the love of man and in Praise of God, and I’d be a damn fool if they weren’t.”

Every morning when I wake,
Dear Lord, a little prayer I make,
O please to keep thy lovely eye
On all poor creatures born to die.

And every evening at sun-down
I ask a blessing on the town,
For whether we last the night or no
I'm sure is always touch-and-go.

We are not wholly bad or good
Who live our lives under Milk Wood,
And Thou, I know, will be the first
To see our best side, not our worst.

Oh let us see another day!
Bless us all this night, I pray,
And to the sun we all will bow
And say, good-bye -- but just for now!

And if you go to our search box and ask for Dylan Thomas, you’ll find a few more reflections on the human condition, written for love of humankind and for the glory of God.

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28 June: The last night that she lived

Tomorrow we remember Saints Peter and Paul, apostles. Peter famously tried to persuade Jesus not to go to Jerusalem and his cruel death; he eventually followed Jesus to his own violent death in Rome. Here Emily Dickinson remembers a natural death which yet ‘made nature different.’

May the Lord grant us a quiet night and a perfect end. Amen.

The last night that she lived,
It was a common night,
Except the dying; this to us
Made nature different.

We noticed smallest things, —
Things overlooked before,
By this great light upon our minds
Italicized, as 't were.

That others could exist
While she must finish quite,
A jealousy for her arose
So nearly infinite.

We waited while she passed;
It was a narrow time,
Too jostled were our souls to speak,
At length the notice came.

She mentioned, and forgot;
Then lightly as a reed
Bent to the water, shivered scarce,
Consented, and was dead.

And we, we placed the hair,
And drew the head erect;
And then an awful leisure was,
Our faith to regulate.

from Poems by Emily Dickinson, Three Series, Complete.

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12 May: The Lord is abroad.

Taken 3 miles, 5 km, from Hammersmith, one stormy night.

The late Mr. James Ralph told Lord Macartney, that Doctor Johnson passed an evening with Dr. Young at Lord Melcombe’s (then Mr. Dodington) at Hammersmith. The Doctor happening to go out into the garden, Mr. Dodington observed to him, on his return, that it was a dreadful night, as in truth it was, there being a violent storm of rain and wind.

‘No, Sir, (replied the Doctor) it is a very fine night. The LORD is abroad.’

Life of Johnson, Volume 4 1780-1784″ by James Boswell.

In Eastertide we consider the presence of the living Lord in our lives. But see how language changes! On this occasion the Doctor did not mean to suggest that the Lord was overseas, rather that he was out and about, ‘abroad’, even on a night of violent storm. At Hammersmith (West London) in the 1780s the night would have been many times darker than today, a violent storm more truly dread-full, but he felt God’s presence and seems to have enjoyed the storm. A very fine night indeed!

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Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter, Laudato si', PLaces

21 December: The night train

I was looking for more poetry (What you might call ‘free verse’!) to read on my Kindle. Since we’ve used Joyce Kilmer a couple of times, I thought I’d look at some of his writing. This poem, The Twelve-forty-five seems appropriate coming up to Christmas. There were no motor cars on the road then, so people depended on the night train to get home late. Let’s pray for all travellers this Christmas, for those who would like to travel but cannot, and for all who will be apart when they would be together if they could; for those who have died and those left behind: the stars – the angels – are watchful over them.

Will.

Upon my crimson cushioned seat,
In manufactured light and heat,
I feel unnatural and mean.
Outside the towns are cool and clean;
Curtained awhile from sound and sight
They take God’s gracious gift of night.
The stars are watchful over them.
On Clifton as on Bethlehem
The angels, leaning down the sky,
Shed peace and gentle dreams. And I —
I ride, I blasphemously ride
Through all the silent countryside.

What Love commands the train fulfills,
And beautiful upon the hills
Are these our feet of burnished steel.
Subtly and certainly I feel
That Glen Rock welcomes us to her
And silent Ridgewood seems to stir
And smile, because she knows the train
Has brought her children back again.
We carry people home — and so
God speeds us, wheresoe’er we go.

The midnight train is slow and old
But of it let this thing be told,
To its high honor be it said
It carries people home to bed.
My cottage lamp shines white and clear.
God bless the train that brought me here.


(The Twelve-forty-five, from “Trees and Other Poems” by Joyce Kilmer)

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Filed under Advent and Christmas, Daily Reflections, poetry, winter

5 December, Going Viral LII: Street sleepers in the winter.

Another moment with Rev Jo Richards.

Good morning to you all, and another beautiful autumnal morning – though late night here last night. I was invited to join with Catching Lives, PorchLight and Canterbury City Council for their annual rough sleeper count, ie the number of folk who are sleeping rough across Canterbury (including Whitstable and Herne Bay).

To witness first hand the work that they do is quite incredible, and a privilege to have walked alongside them.  I was with the trio covering much of our Benefice, so very familiar places and homeless that I know. The streets were absolutely deserted and there was something quite special walking down these ancient deserted streets without a soul in sight, with the Christmas Lights twinkling at 2.00am. I know we often support Catching Lives and Porchlight, and it makes one realise just how important these two charities are in the way that they reach out to so many, and the work that they do.

Have a good day, God Bless
Jo
Rev Jo Richards

Rector of the Benefice of St Dunstan, St Mildred and St Peter, Canterbury

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Filed under corona virus, Mission, PLaces, winter

18 August: Gilbert White V. Pond life

This marshy stretch of water offers cover to birds – and would-be hunters.

We continue reading from White’s letter to Pennant.

Wolmer Pond, so called, I suppose, for eminence sake, is a vast lake for this part of the world, containing, in its whole circumference, 2,646 yards, or very near a mile and a half.  The length of the north-west and opposite side is about 704 yards, and the breadth of the south-west end about 456 yards.  This measurement, which I caused to be made with good exactness, gives an area of about sixty-six acres, exclusive of a large irregular arm at the north-east corner, which we did not take into the reckoning.

On the face of this expanse of waters, and perfectly secure from fowlers, lie all day long, in the winter season, vast flocks of ducks, teals, and widgeons, of various denominations, where they preen and solace, and rest themselves, till towards sunset, when they issue forth in little parties (for in their natural state they are all birds of the night) to feed in the brooks and meadows, returning again with the dawn of the morning.  Had this lake an arm or two more, and were it planted round with thick covert (for now it is perfectly naked), it might make a valuable decoy.

A decoy uses floating model ducks to attract flocks of wild birds to a stretch of water where hunters and their retriever dogs are waiting.

Gilbert White can be seen here involving his parishioners in his science, surveying the pond. It must have been exciting for the swarms of children following behind. I daresay they got in the way.

He says elsewhere that rich tenants had stripped the oak woods around the pond, selling the timber, in all probability, to the Royal Naval Dockyard at Portsmouth to build ships with ‘hearts of oak’. War and greed deforesting England.

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Oh for a dark sky!

SimgDe/CC BY-SA

A fine night so over to the park to seek out Comet Neowise, There was no chance of seeing it so clearly as in this photograph – which is a time exposure and did not have Canterbury’s light pollution to contend with. I also witnessed two shooting stars and heard a large group of teenagers enjoying a peaceful reunion under the stars – and the comet and the meteors.


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Filed under Interruptions, Laudato si'

22 May: The mind has mountains.

“O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.”

Gerard Manley Hopkins

So let’s be a little more serious about the sorrow we looked at yesterday. Sorrow and depression are real. Hopkins bids us take comfort, even if we are tossed about by a whirlwind of spinning emotions and thoughts. We know our sorrow will at least have an end in death: life death does end. But does this mean that death brings an end to a frightful life, or that life puts an end to death? I would suggest both arguments hold true. And each day dies with sleep, ‘and another succeeds it’ is the subtext of that word ‘each’. We always have another chance to open our eyes and say with another of Wales’ poets, WH Davies:

Good morning Life, and all things glad and beautiful.

It may feel all wrong at this moment to be uttering such a prayer, but that does not mean that it is actually wrong to make an act of hope.

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