I suppose that in matters of religion I am best described as agnostic, though that is really too definite a label: an agnostic believes that some things are unknowable in principle and I have no idea whether those things are unknowable in principle or not: I only know that I don’t myself know them, and that it would be dishonest of me to pretend otherwise. This doesn’t stop me having some respect for religion in so far as it involves good people getting together to do good things, and in particular being grateful to the C. of E. for providing beautiful ancient buildings up and down the country which, as long as you avoid Sundays, are ideal for a spot of quiet reflection. And also for inspiring a lot of fine music and poetry. Like this piece by John Meade Falkner (1858-1932), perhaps best known as the author of the smuggler’s tale ‘Moonfleet’, but also a poet and onetime Librarian to Durham Cathedral. It is a poem which fuses the Church calendar with the English year in a celebration that may appeal even to those like me who have to look up when Trinity actually is (it seems to move about: this year it’s May 31st).
We have done with dogma and divinity,
Easter and Whitsun past,
The long, long Sundays after Trinity,
Are with us at last;
The passionless Sundays after Trinity,
Neither feast-day nor fast.
Christmas comes with plenty,
Lent spreads out its pall,
But these are five and twenty,
The longest Sundays of all;
The placid Sundays after Trinity,
Wheat-harvest, fruit-harvest, Fall.
Spring with its burst is over,
Summer has had its day,
The scented grasses and clover
Are cut, and dried into hay;
The singing-birds are silent,
And the swallows flown away.
Post pugnam pausa fiet;
Lord, we have made our choice;
In the stillness of autumn quiet,
We have heard the still, small voice.
We have sung Oh where shall Wisdom?
Thick paper, folio, Boyce.
Let it not all be sadness,
Not omnia vanitas,
Stir up a little gladness
To lighten the Tibi cras;
Send us that little summer,
That comes with Martinmas.
When still the cloudlet dapples
The windless cobalt blue,
And the scent of gathered apples
Fills all the store-rooms through,
The gossamer silvers the bramble,
The lawns are gemmed with dew.
An end of tombstone Latinity,
Stir up sober mirth,
Twenty-fifth after Trinity,
Kneel with the listening earth,
Behind the Advent trumpets
They are singing Emmanuel’s birth.
John Meade Falkner