THE current shelling of an Eastern city brings Milton's
Samson Agonistes into my head. "Eyeless in Gaza, at the
mill with slaves." The heroic leader has been seduced, cropped,
blinded, but in a moment of God-given return of strength, he is
able to pull the house down on is tormentors.
An apologist for the bombing is unable to persuade me or anyone
else of its righteousness. Milton's Samson is not named on the
breakfast news, but when "Gaza" is said, he seems to criticise the
military action taken against a modern city in which today's
children cower in their classrooms. Hasn't the world seen enough of
this "justified" response? Words would have done. Words would have
done for all wars.
Apart from Gaza, the radio says that the summer will break
today. Though little sign of it as yet. The ancient farmhouse
continues to bake; the wasps hang around. Climbing roses burst
against the warm walls. My freshly scythed orchard turns into hay.
At 6 a.m., the garden is sopping wet and cold to bare feet, as I
carry yesterday's letters to the box for the postman.
This is the day when the clay-sculptor Jon Edgar delivers my
bust. He carries it through the tall plants, and here I am in three
dimensions, and as I have not known myself before. If only Charles
I could have seen his head in the round, what might our history
My question now is, where shall my head be put? Think of the
white cat. Think of some sudden movement. Clay heads are as fragile
as bone heads. But Jon soon discoversa place from which it can
survey the universe safely. After which we drive to Mount Bures for
a celebratory fish and chips and beer.
By this time, the sun knows no limits. I tell Jon about the Iron
Age folk sleeping beneath our feet, and about the Mount being all
of 30 feet high. After lunch, we visit the soaring door-angels at
Stoke-by-Nayland; silvery with centuries, they rise to a Virgin
that the Reformers could do little about, considering the cost of
The day becomes hotter and hotter, and the passing cornfields
more and more golden. Not a soul about. If you want outsiders, you
must go to Ambridge. A church-size combine presses us into the
blackberries en passant. Hollyhocks loom. Pigeons play
last-across. Irrigation jets play Versailles. "There's a lot going
on," we tell each other. We mean for an English village in late
July. We might even see a man at work.
Trinity 6, and we are to remember a holy family who fed and
lodged the Lord as he walked the rough roads in the heat. Two
sisters and their brother remain the founders of Christian
hospitality. George Herbert would find Jesus at the "ordinary"
table in the inn. I can remember the "farmers' ordinary" in a small
Suffolk town when I was a boy. It was kept by two sisters, and the
farmers walked across from the corn exchange on market day to eat
roast beef, whatever the temperature. None of your silly
Plaster labourers lolled against plaster sheaves above the corn
exchange in attitudes of what the Book of Common Prayer calls
"plenty". The corn exchange is now the public library, but still
they loll in the full sun, sickles at the ready. The mere ghost of
agriculture haunts our country towns, and heatwaves seem to draw it
out. What shall we sing at matins? "With prosperous times our
cities crown, Our fields with plenteousness."