Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Mists and mellow fruitfulness.

Shitterton, Dorset.

Over the fields and far away.

Shitterton Dairy.

Later, the mist cleared.

I awoke in the Shitterton Dairy the other day, in Dorset, to the end of Summer. Looking out of the window, the mist was heavy upon the ground and it was perfect weather for collecting wild mushrooms, the air was damp and chill with the promise of that peculiar Autumnal bright sun which, however, still necessitates a thick jumper and jacket. I had the distinct impression that a pint or two of bitter were going to be an integral part of the day, probably in the nearby Drax Arms, with a fire and pork pies and mustard involved at some point as well. It was , anyway, perfect walking weather. Here is what John Keats made of it all all those years ago.....

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease;
For Summer has o'erbrimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river-sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

In our busy world, the Church and especially Her ministers, need, I believe, to stand back now and again and to reflect on the age of the world and the shortness of our time. To stop rushing around creating monuments to our petty vanities, to be 'remembered', and just to play our small and humble part in the turning of the world and the unstoppable march of the seasons. We get bad press, us Anglicans, people (not unnaturally, given the circumstances), assume that our primary interest is concerned with a minority of the nations nocturnal activities and maybe climate change. We have lost, in some respects, the elemental nature of Church and it is by reflection, prayer and example that we can refind it, and by the Grace of God. Last night I was reminded by our new Principal that , like St Paul, in some respects all Christians need to be identifiable by our actions and lives as such, not by specific clothing alone and like St Paul, we need to be able to say 'be like me'. A sobering, difficult thought, but true. Chrisians are not called to dither, dithering is a new activity for us, but to walk humbly, with the Cross of Christ visible upon our backs, a glorious, happy burden which we so often drop at the first sign of trouble.