September! We are moving into Autumn, fruit, grain harvest, swelling pumpkins … return to school, reluctant scholars yet glad to see their friends. remembering Oscar Wilde yesterday, here is the XVII Century English-speaking Welsh poet, Henry Vaughan, looking for the luxuries of out-of-season flowers and fruit. He’d find them today of course, rushed to us from around the world. But note his conclusion!
The tender vine in our garden suffered from the North’s cold wind last winter, but we have a few bunches of grapes swelling; are they to be food for humans or starlings?
Who the violet doth love,
Must seek her in the flow'ry grove,
But never when the North's cold wind
The russet fields with frost doth bind.
If in the spring-time—to no end—
The tender vine for grapes we bend,
We shall find none, for only—still—
Autumn doth the wine-press fill.
Thus for all things—in the world's prime—
The wise God seal'd their proper time.
The sky is clear,
The sun is bright;
The cows are red,
The sheep are white;
Trees in the meadows
Make happy shadows.
Birds in the hedge
Are perched and sing;
Swallows and larks
Are on the wing:
Two merry cuckoos
Are making echoes.
Bird and the beast
Have the dew yet;
My road shines dry,
Theirs bright and wet:
Death gives no warning,
On this May morning.
I see no Christ
Nailed on a tree,
Dying for sin;
No sin I see:
No thoughts for sadness,
All thoughts for gladness.
(from Foliage: Various Poems by W. H. Davies.
Sometimes Davies says it all in sheer simplicity: Christ is risen, No sin I see!
Time to catch up with Eddie Gilmore and the Irish Chaplaincy team who have been walking around London in Hope.
After a year in which I’d gone to London just three times I had the prospect of four trips in one week, thanks to our Walk with Hope event.
The event was due to launch on the Monday with a shortish walk from the Irish Centre in Camden, where we have our offices, to St Bride’s church on Fleet Street, named after our patron saint at the Chaplaincy, St Brigid. I was so excited to be going out for the day that I left home earlier than I needed to. I caught the 7.48 High Speed train from Canterbury, my former daily train, whose twelve cars used to be packed with commuters. Now it has six cars and there was just a handful of people in my carriage when we pulled into St Pancras International. I had a chat with the train guard as we strolled down the platform and I realised that it’s those kinds of little encounters that I’ve missed.
I’d been interested to read an article in the Guardian the week before called ‘Has lockdown given you brain fog?’ It explained how the “brain is stimulated by the new, the different,” and that “We have effectively evolved to stop paying attention when nothing changes and to pay particular attention when things do change.” Like many people over the last year, I’ve been working at home, and therefore spending a lot of days on my own sitting in the same position with the same zoom background behind me, and without many of the stimuli that would occur naturally in a day when I was out and about and seeing people. It seems that our brains have begun to switch off!
This poem by Christina Rossetti ought to be set to music; perhaps it has been. These bluebells – they come in white as well – are full of fresh scent, worth getting on one’s knees for, and a word of thanks for the gift might not go amiss. I loved the sound of the sea in the treetops when I was little, but the woods were ‘lovely, dark and deep’ and closer by than the sea.
Gone were but the Winter,
Come were but the Spring,
I would go to a covert
Where the birds sing;
Where in the white-thorn
Singeth a thrush,
And a robin sings
In the holly-bush.
Full of fresh scents
Are the budding boughs,
Arching high over
A cool green house:
Full of sweet scents,
And whispering air
Which sayeth softly:
"We spread no snare;
"Here dwell in safety,
Here dwell alone,
With a clear stream
And a mossy stone.
"Here the sun shineth
Here is heard an echo
Of the far sea,
Though far off it be."
This week, from April 19th– 24th 2021, many people will be walking to raise funds for the work of the Irish Chaplaincy, and to raise awareness of the elderly Irish we support in Britain, whether living alone or in care homes or in prison. To join in, contact Declan.email@example.com . Put the Spring in your step!
No easy crown to make.
Did they wear gloves?
Did their hands bleed,
Mingling with your blood?
No easy crown to wear,
To hold in place
While acting out their game,
Excited by your blood.
By your response . . .
As you do.
Sheila Billingsley sent us these three poems very recently; they arrived on Easter Eve, Holy Saturday. Though the first two shorter poems are about the events of Thursday night and Friday they are infused with Easter, so here they are, as close to Easter as we could get them; the others follow tomorrow and the next day. A shame to put them by until next year.
Yesterday, Tim; today his mother, Sheila, brings a poet’s eye to the face mask and what it might teach us, now and when we can discard them (and please, not on the street!) Thank you again, Sheila for your artist’s wisdom.
Will we remember that we're beautiful?
When, masks discarded, hands once more held out,
Will we remember - beauty born - oh! Beauty born,
Made by Beauty to be beautiful.
Will we recall when the wrinkles show once more, how smiles light up that beauty,
When mouths now visible
May kiss and speak in beauty?
In tenderness, you made it so, in praise, in song?
Will we have forgotten the gentleness of touch?
The scent of the winter's buried spring,
Still masked, but waiting.
Eddie Gilmore of the Irish chaplaincy in London describes how he was coping with the discipline of working from home and not going up to the office. Read the whole article here.
My life in lockdown has become a bit monastic, and there’s a lot I like about that. There’s quite a nice, simple balance of work, prayer, meals, reading, recreation (much of that in the form of walking or cycling). I’m a bit more tuned in than usual to the subtle but magical changes in the natural world: the colours and the smells, the times of the day when the birds sing more loudly, the wonderful sight in the sky a few nights ago of a crescent moon underneath a brightly shining Venus.
Thank you Eddie for allowing us to use your writings! There will be a barbecue to end all this enforced confinement, but even now, let your heart be unconfined!
Working from home, our daughter and son looked out of their windows. One spotted a sparrow, nesting in a hole in our brickwork ; the other a red admiral butterfly who, as a caterpillar must have found a safe place to sleep through the winter but woke to a strange new world one warm May morning. Lovely to look up from the screen to see such sights!
For the sparrow hath found herself a house, and the turtle a nest for herself where she may lay her young ones: Thy altars, O Lord of hosts, my king and my God. Psalm 83.4