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Word from Wormingford

07 June 2013

Ronald Blythe sits in a traffic jam, and tries to remember a poem

A RADIO continues to talk where no one is listening, in a far-off room where the early-morning sun is blazing away. "My grandmother made the most of her life," a woman is saying. "That's it," I thought.

My wildflower meadow is making the most of its life, as is the white cat as she fills it with sleep. It is the spring holiday and, all the way to farthest Sussex, cricket is being played on greens, and trees waver with brand-new leaves. Perched in a lordly fashion in David's Land Rover, I survey the Home Counties of England making the most of their lives. Cricket and lilac, from door to door.

And, finally, the Charleston Festival, below Firle Beacon; and the familiar company, the crack of the marquee in the faint wind, and the ghosts of Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf, the softer air, the hospitality, and this yearly treat. I am to recall Benjamin Britten, now a century old. We listen to his cantata Saint Nicolas as it sparkles its way through the canvas cave.

Homeward bound, David says that we arrived here on Trinity Sunday, and I want to quote my favourite Trinity poem, but the lines elude me as they get somehow embroidered in the lines of traffic. I faintly remember that their author had lost his faith - although he always went to church on Trinity Sunday.

Religion fills our head with anecdotes. Have I told David this one? The Land Rover heads home through the Dartford Tunnel. The Thames flows above us. The cars are like beads being drawn through an ivory rod - are all their passengers making the most of their lives? The Trinity poem falls into shape. It is about the longueurs of the 26 weeks to come. Then it gets run over by the traffic.

On Sunday, we shall go to Blythburgh, where the Son sits on the Father's lap high up over the river, and the stone dove floats above their heads. The Middle Ages had no difficulty with the Trinity.

The yellow peony is out. It has one flower a year, which must not be missed. Also, the Gloire de Dijon roses, two of them on the house wall. A cuckoo brags, far away. I plant lettuces out, and do some heroic weeding. On Trinity One, I shall read the great peroration on love in the first chapter of St John's Gospel, and in which our love is made perfect.

Two contrasting figures emerge from the Holy Trinity readings: the one secretive, the other open and challenging; the one didactic, the other wildly poetic; the one set in his ways, the other shouting "Make way!" The conventional man and the heady young man who claimed to be a voice, and nothing more. Two people, who once upon a time would not have been capable of saying anything intelligible to each other. John the Baptist and Councillor Nicodemus. There they stand, in the midsummer sunshine. And there approaches the three-fold God.

The Raj sun would beat down on poor young Reginald Heber at this moment. "Holy, holy, holy", he would sing. He was a parson-poet from the north who had met Sir Walter Scott, and who had won the Newdigate poetry prize at Oxford, and who was now a youthful bishop whom the heat would destroy. He had written of the trilogy of earth and sea and sky, and of their mutual praise. And thus the long, long Sundays after Trinity stretch ahead, "neither feast day nor fast".

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