"THE hunt will be coming by on Monday," Stephen says. I do not
tell the white cat. Sufficient unto the day, etc. It makes her
tremble all over - the very sound of it.
My old friend from the British Museum comes to matins. I am to
show him the Earls of Oxford's tombs in St Stephen's Chapel -
Countesses, too - all in alabaster state, although their dust is
elsewhere. Their name is de Vere - boar. Before this, I take matins
at Little Horkesley, where those who sang to God in the Middle Ages
sleep beneath our feet. Dust, dust. And angel voices ever singing.
And the long, long days of Trinity, neither feast-day nor fast.
I preach on "Brother Nature", having witnessed quite suddenly
our stripped fields, not having heard so much as a far combine
humming to the sky. In 1225 (when the Earls of Oxford were setting
the carvers to work on their tombs), St Francis, a different kind
of patrician, sat in his Assisi garden and wrote a hymn to nature,
calling it "Brother Sun and his Creatures", as he related himself
to the natural world.
His family tree was the oak or ash or dark cypress. He was
brother to the flowers, to the birds, to the hares. Like his Lord,
Francis had moved away from the concept of the natural world's
being a larder for the benefit of humanity to the concept of its
being a related family.
Inherent in Christ's experience of his countryside is his wonder
and delight in it. The crops, the blooms, the scenery, the
creatures. He was much outside all his life, now and then
complainingly so. He picks and chews corn as he walks, and as we
did as Suffolk children. We ate fresh hawthorn buds, and called
them bread and cheese. We gnawed raw carrots. We were the
inheritors of glut when it came to fallen plums. We pretended to
enjoy crab apples. Best of all, we drank from the spring waters, a
hilly meadow stream near our home, and paddled in them, our white
feet startling tiny fish.
All this came to mind when I reached up to feel if my Victorias
were ready. Just about. And the greengages - pick now! Aiden keeps
the late-summer grass in order, and will shortly scythe the seedy
overgrowth. After which the nuts will fall - what the birds have
left of them. Cherry trees pale before St Stephen's Chapel, where
the Earls sleep. Drizzle masks the famous view. Duncan's white barn
guides me to Bottengoms Farm, from here no more than a smudge.
I am standing where the teenage Edmund stood for his coronation.
It was Christmas Day. And they had all climbed Cuckoo Hill -
singing, of course. Some carol about the Lord Jesus, and his coming
into the world. After which there would have been a feast, and much
kneeling to the boy God and the boy king. And incense, not Mr Rix's
onions, although I rather like the way that they have scented the
Stour Valley. Short-term economy has scattered it with pylons,
The little river is lost in its fading summer growth, just
giving a glitter here and there. The harvest fields have been raked
and freshly seeded. Never a pause. Lots of duck and geese in
echelon flight. According to Francis, they are my relatives.
The poet Thomas Traherne insisted that we should want God's
creation, should desire it - be greedy for it.