Saturday, 28 February 2015

Goldilocks Cottage comes back to life in a
park for Pooh-sticks and a proud peacock

Laurelmere Lodge has been known to children as ‘Goldilocks Cottage’ for over 30 years (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

Before the storm blew up this afternoon, two of us went for a stroll in Marlay Park on the edges of Rathfarnham and beneath the slopes of the Dublin Mountains.

I am blessed to live in a part of south Dublin that offers access to so many open areas of parkland, including Airfield, Saint Enda’s Park, the grounds of Rathfarnham Castle, Tymon Park and Marlay Park.

I can understand why so many of the residents of this part of Rathfarnam complain during the summer months about the noise and behaviour connected with late night concerts. But those concerts have paid for the restoration of one of the architectural gems in Marlay Park.

Generations of children have passed by a tumbledown that they have often known as “Goldilocks Cottage,” teased by parents to peer at the windows from a distance to see whether they can catch glimpses of the Three Bears.

Immediately adjoining the courtyard is an enclosed garden of some four acres with a head gardener's house.

A wooden footbridge near ‘Goldilocks Cottage … just the place for Christopher Robin to play Pooh-stick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

The charming, hidden cottage known as Laurelmere Lodge is in a shaded corner close to a little wooden bridge that easily provide the location for Christopher Robin playing Pooh-Sticks … I can just imagine the children crossing this bridge looking out for Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore.

For years, this two-storey cottage was shaded by overgrown, overhanging trees, and had fallen into a sad state of disrepair.

Marlay House is an 18th century Georgian house once owned by the family of David La Touche, the first governor of the Bank of Ireland. Laurelmere was originally built around 1790 a thatched cottage orné or stylised cottage built in a rustic setting for the La Touche family.

The La Touche family would have used the cottage as a place for picnics, card games and theatricals, according to Pamela O’Connor, a conservation architect with Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.

Arts and crafts tiles and details were added to the cottage in the 1870s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Later, the cottage was remodelled with a slate roof in the Art and Crafts style around 1875 by its next owner, Robert Tedcastle. Two rooms were added on upstairs and a slate roof in the Arts and Crafts style was added. At the time, the estate manager for the Tedcastle family lived in the house at this time.

Later, it was also known as Tamplin’s Cottage after a one-time resident, Colonel Bob Tamplin, who was the Captain of nearby Grange Golf Club in 1925.

From 1925, Marlay House and estate was owned by the market gardener Phillip Love until it was acquired by Dublin County Council in 1972. The last tenant of Laurelmere Cottage moved out in the mid-1970s, and the cottage remained vacant for another three decades and was falling into ruin. But it continued to hold a fairy-tale, romantic fascination for children – and adults – in the woods of Marlay Park.

“Attempts were made to stop the rot in the 1970s and structural work was done to hold the building in its place in the 1990s, but it was never a priority,” according to Michael Church, the heritage building manager at Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.

The main house at Marlay Park, built by the La Touche family in the 18th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

The cottage has been restored in recent months by the Architecture Department of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council as part of the restoration of Marlay Park. The restoration has cost €536,000, and this been funded by the monies raised from the Marlay Park concerts.

Pamela O’Connor and Alyson Carney oversaw the recent restoration works on Laurelmere. This restoration work was carried out by master craftsmen Dunwoody and Dobson, who worked in the Arts and Crafts style, reusing original stone-tiled flooring, wood panelling, tasteful light fittings and cast iron fireplaces.

Now it has become the premises of the Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland, and will be home to the RHSI garden school and a horticultural programme run by gardening lecturer Ciaran Burke.

More than 500 people saw the interior of Laurelmere last October as part of Open House Dublin last year. I walked around the cottage this afternoon, peering through the windows at the two reception rooms downstairs. Upstairs, there is space for a boardroom, a library with more than 1,000 gardening books, and the Garden School office.

The cottage was closed this afternoon, but I understand reproductions of William Morris floral printed wallpapers – popular during the Arts and Crafts movement – have been used throughout the house. Paint colours used during the late 1700s, when the cottage was first built, have also been replicated.

The garden to the front of the house is to be used by the garden school and there are plans for a naturalistic style garden to the back, with seating for adults, play space for children and perhaps sculpture exhibitions.

However, plans to reinstall the original conservatory have been put on hold due to a lack of funding.

A taste of Greece … olive products from Crete on a stall in the courtyard at Marlay Park (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

We strolled through the Saturday farmers’ market in the courtyard, where we bought a little taste of Greece in the shape of olive produces from Greece.

Later, we had double espressos in the coffee house beside the walled gardens, before moving into the walled regency gardens, with its hidden delights.

Hidden surprises in the walled regency gardens in Marlay Park (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Before we left, a proud peacock was preening himself on a table in the small walled area behind the coffee shop, obviously used to the attention of customers and visitors and not afraid of their proximity. Back in the main courtyard, the blustering winds were blowing through the stalls, announcing the storm was imminent.

Perhaps the peacock alone would remain unperturbed. But I was reminded that the peacock was a mediaeval symbol of the resurrection.

As we prepare this Lent for Easter, the Gospel reading at the Eucharist tomorrow morning [1 March 2015] is Saint Mark’s account of the Transfiguration (Mark 9: 2-9). After that experience, Christ tells Peter, James and John “to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”

Lent finds its climax not on Good Friday but on Easter Morning.

A proud peacock on a table beside the coffee shop in Marlay Park this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

For other postings on the architectural heritage of South Dublin see:

Berwick Hall.
The Bottle Tower, Churchtown.
Brookvale House, Rathfarnham.
Camberley House, Churchtown.
Dartry House, Orwell Park, Rathfarnham.
Ely Arch, Rathfarnham.
Ely House, Nutgrove Avenue, Rathfarnham.
Fernhurst, 14 Orwell Road, Rathgar.
Fortfield House, Hyde Park, Terenure.
No 201 Harold’s Cross Road, the birthplace of Richard Allen.
Homestead, Sandyford Road, Dundrum.
Kilvare House, also known as Cheeverstown House, Templeogue Road.
Knocklyon Castle.
Laurelmere Lodge, Marlay Park.
Marlay Park.
Mountain View House, Beaumont Avenue, Churchtown.
Newbrook House, Taylor’s Lane, Rathfarnham.
Old Bawn House, Tallaght.
Rathfarnham Castle.
Sally Park, Fihouse.
Scholarstown House, Knocklyon.
Silveracre House, off Sarah Curran Avenue, Rathfarnham.
Synge House, Newtwon Villas, Churchtown, and No 4 Orwell Park, Rathgar.
Templeogue House.
Washington House, Butterfield Avenue, Rathfarnham.
Westbourne House, off Rathfarnham Road.

Through Lent with Vaughan Williams (11):
‘He who would Valiant be’ (Monk’s Gate)

Monk’s Gate … the West Sussex hamlet near Horsham where Vaughan Williams first heard the tune he used for Percy Dearmer’s rewriting of John Bunyan’s hymn (Photograph: Pete Chapman/Wikipedia)

Patrick Comerford

For my reflections and devotions during Lent this year, each day I am reflecting on and invite you to listen to a piece of music or a hymn set to a tune by the great English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

This morning [28 February 2015], I have chosen the hymn ‘He who would Valiant be’ also commonly known as ‘To be a Pilgrim,’ sung to the tune Monk’s Gate, which the New English Hymnal says was adapted from an old English folk song by Vaughan Williams. The words by Percy Dearmer (1867-1936) are a comprehensive reworking of an earlier, 17th century hymn by John Bunyan (1628-1688), the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress.

John Julian’s great Dictionary of Hymnody, revised in 1907, mentions Bunyan only to say that he did not write any hymns. This is Bunyan’s only known hymn and was first published in 1684 in Part 2 of The Pilgrim’s Progress. It recalls the words of Hebrews 11: 13: “... and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

Bunyan’s words were modified extensively by Percy Dearmer for The English Hymnal (1906), with a new tune composed by Vaughan Williams, who used a traditional Sussex melody, ‘Monk’s Gate.’

This popular hymn tune is in 65 65 66 65, and it is the tune rather than the words that have made this hymn so memorable Edward Darling and Donald Davison, in their Companion to Church Hymnal, say it provides “a fine example of the use of syncopation and cross-rhythm in a hymn tune.”.

Monk’s Gate is a hamlet in West Sussex, on the A281, 4.3 km south-east of Horsham. It was there in December 1904 that Vaughan Williams first heard the tune when he heard Harriet Verrall of Monk’s Gate singing the English folksong ‘Our Captain Calls All Hands.’ Harriet and Peter Verrall, who lived at Thrift Cottage, were also responsible for teaching Vaughan Williams the ‘Sussex Carol’ (‘On Christmas Night all Christians sing’) and the tune known as Sussex (‘Father, hear the prayer we offer’).

The song ‘Our Captain Calls All Hands’ tells of a woman deserted by her sailor lover:

How can you go abroad
fighting for strangers?
Why don’t you stay at home
free from all danger?
I will roll you in my arms,
my own dearest jewel,
So stay at home with me, love,
and don’t be cruel.


Vaughan Williams’s tune was published in the first edition of the English Hymnal in 1906.



Three years later, he heard the same tune being sung at Westhope, near Weobley, Herefordshire, by Ellen Powell with a folk song called ‘A Blacksmith Courted Me.’ This song has the same theme of love deserted:

A blacksmith courted me
Nine months and better
He fairly won my heart
Wrote me a letter.
With his hammer in his hand
He looked so clever
And if I was with my love
I would live forever …

Oh, witness have I none
Save God Almighty
And may he reward you well
For the slighting of me.
Her lips grew pale and wan
It made a poor heart tremble
To think she loved a one
And he proved deceitful …


This second song has been recorded by many of the folk rock bands that emerged from the late 1960s on. Steeleye Span lead off their first two studio albums Hark! The Village Wait (1970) and Please to See the King (1971) with different versions of the song as well as on several live albums. Planxty sing it on their first album Planxty (1973), and Pentangle on the album So Early in the Spring (1989). Maddy Prior of Steeleye Span also sings an a cappella version on her solo album Year (1993).

In the early 1970s, I was enjoying the music of English folk rock bands such as Steeleye Span, Pentangle, Fairport Convention, Lindsifarne and Jethro Thull. Their music provided an interesting bridge to the music of Vaughan Williams, which I was introduced to in rural Shropshire.

The adaptation of Monk’s Gate by Vaughan Williams brought new attention to Bunyan’s much-forgotten poem, which was hidden in the second part of The Pilgrim’s Progress. But the words sung to Monk’s Gate are no longer those penned by Bunyan, whose poem begins:

Who would true valour see,
  Let him come hither;
One here will constant be,
Come wind, come weather.


The version in the English Hymnal is the one rewritten by Percy Dearmer and begins:

He who would valiant be
’Gainst all disaster,
Let him in constancy
Follow the Master.


The Master, of course, is Christ, and Dearmer also introduced explicit references to the Lord and the Spirit, making a Trinitarian hymn of a poem that was written as an allegory and with lyrics that are only metaphorically Christian. But Dearmer also cut out Bunyan’s references to a lion, a hobgoblin and foul fiend.



Bunyan’s original was not commonly sung in churches, perhaps because of the references to “hobgoblin” and “foul fiend.” Some recent hymnbooks have returned to Bunyan’s original, including the Church of England’s Common Praise and the Church of Scotland’s Hymns of Glory, Songs of Praise, and it has been popular with English folk rock artists such as Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band.

The two versions of the hymn are included in the Irish Church Hymnal (No 662), which also uses the tune Monk’s Gate for Herbert O’Driscoll’s hymn ‘Who are we who stand and sing?’ (No 532).

‘To Be a Pilgrim’ is the school hymn for many schools throughout England, and is sung in several school films. In Lindsay Anderson’s film if.... (1968), it characterises the traditional religious education in English public schools in the 1960s. It is also sung again in a public school context in Clockwise (1986), starring John Cleese, who directs all of the members of the Headmasters’ Conference to stand and sing the hymn, as he often would to his own pupils.

This was one of the hymns chosen by Margaret Thatcher for her funeral two years ago in April 2013. But the hymn was also one of Tony Benn’s choices on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs.

The hymn’s refrain “to be a pilgrim” has entered common usage in the English language and has been used in the title of many books about pilgrimage.

From his childhood, Vaughan Williams had been attracted to the sturdy and simple prose of John Bunyan, with its sincerity and spiritual intensity. Vaughan Williams described his Pilgrim’s Progress as a ‘Morality’ rather than an opera, although he intended the work to be performed on stage rather than in a church or cathedral.

Vaughan Williams later made an opera of Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, although he changed the hero’s name from Christian to Pilgrim. I shall return to Bunyan, Vaughan Williams, and The Pilgrim’s Progress when I invite you to listen with me to ‘The Song of the Tree of Life,’ a song from that opera.



He who would valiant be

He who would valiant be
’Gainst all disaster,
Let him in constancy
Follow the Master.
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.

Who so beset him round
With dismal stories
Do but themselves confound –
His strength the more is.
No foes shall stay his might;
Though he with giants fight,
He will make good his right
To be a pilgrim.

Since, Lord, thou dost defend
Us with thy Spirit,
We know we at the end,
Shall life inherit.
Then fancies flee away!
I’ll fear not what men say,
I’ll labour night and day
To be a pilgrim.


Tomorrow:The Song of the Tree of Life

Friday, 27 February 2015

Returning to the Unicorn after many
years and strolling in a Victorian park

The Victorian lake and ‘temple’ in Blackrock Park this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

I have often passed by Blackrock Park, but usually I have been on my way somewhere else. I have stayed at least once in the Blackrock Clinic for a procedure related to my sarcoidosis, I have had an afternoon stroll through Blackrock Markets, and I have visited some of the bookshops and coffee shops, but until this afternoon I had never been in Blackrock Park.

Four of us had lunch this afternoon in the Unicorn in Merrion Court off Merrion Row, close to Saint Stephen’s Green. This is one of Dublin’s oldest Italian Restaurants. It dates back to 1938, but has stood the test of time, retaining a warm, modern and informal environment.

The Unicorn in close to O’Donoghue’s Pub on Merrion Row, forever linked with the Dubliners and politicians, and Toner’s on Baggot Street, with its associations with James Joyce, WB Yeats and Patrick Kavanagh, making the Unicorn a favourite restaurant for journalists, and politicians.

It has been years, if not decades, since I had been in the Unicorn for either lunch or dinner, but I was not surprised to casually bump into people I know.

A busy day on Baggot Street this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Later, in search of a nearby beach for a walk, we drove from Baggot Street through Ballsbridge, thinking we might end go for a walk in Seapoint or Sandycove.

But instead, on impulse, we decided to stop at Blackrock Park, thinking we would walk along the shoreline behind the railway line.

The park is a classic Victorian affair with tree-lined avenues, gently sloping pathways, the occasional sculpture and breath-taking views from the mounds out over Dublin Bay and across to Howth Head.

Looking out across Dublin Bay to Howth Head from the pathway behind the railway line at Blackrock (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Blackrock Park was built in 1873 to win back some of the Dublin holiday makers who had deserted Blackrock after the arrival of the railway stretching the length of the east coast of Ireland.

The park was laid out on reclaimed, ugly swampland that was abandoned after the railway line from Dublin to Wexford had been built.

In summer, the park is the venue for family-friendly events and festivals, including an annual Teddy Bears’ Picnic. Even this afternoon, as the sunshine held out the bright promise of winter turning into spring, small family groups were in the park for afternoon strolls, and schoolchildren were making their way hurriedly through the park to Blackrock Station.

The Victorian bandstand is padlocked and covered in graffiti (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

But the playground and the park look neglected in many places. The Temple in the artificial lake, which might be an attractive feature in another park, looks inviting from a distance. But when you get closer it looks neglected and more like a sad, abandoned and rusting pump house. The 1890s bandstand and the Victorian Tudor-revival pavilion ought to be two Victorian gems, but they are daubed with graffiti and paint, and the bandstand is padlocked.

In the 18th century, Merrion Strand extended as far as the site of Blackrock Station and spread along the present area of Blackrock Park. Later, the Vauxhall Gardens occupied the site of the present main entrance to Blackrock Park opposite Mount Merrion Avenue, from 1793 until it was sold in 1804.

The Dublin to Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) railway line was the first in Ireland and opened to traffic on 17 December 1834. But the new railway line was soon to prove a disaster for Blackrock. A foul-smelling swamp formed between the sea and the town, and the rocks that gave Blackrock its name had were lost under the swamp and wasteland. Their memory remains in the name of Rock Road, which forms the south-west boundary of the park.

Once the once-pleasant strand was lost, people taking the train from Dublin in search of seaside locations in the summer months by-passed Blackrock, preferring Monkstown, Kingstown or even Dalkey. Blackrock as a resort lost its summer lodgers and people in search of sea-bathing and fresh air, and was almost deserted.

In search of new injection of life, the Blackrock Town Commissioners borrowed £3,000 in 1873 to develop a park on the site of the swamp. The park was ready for public use about a decade later. What had been a swamp became the People’s Park, with walks, rockeries, parterres and flowers. A small portion of water was kept to form two picturesque lakes, each with an island planted with shrubs and one with a fountain. Once a week, a military band played in the ornamented bandstand.

We were joined by a friend as we followed the commuters down a narrow alley to Blackrock Station. There we crossed a footbridge over the railway line to the narrow path that runs beside the shore, above the small coves and beaches and the former Blackrock Baths.

Below us, the water seemed gentle as it lapped against the shore. Although no-one was bathing, a father and his small daughter were enjoying the sand the tide.

Dan McCarthy’s sculpture of “Cut-Out People” dates from 1986 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

We back-tracked and returned to Blackrock Park, and found the second smaller lake no longer exists. The formal Victorian park was transferred to the new Dun Laoghaire Corporation in 1930, and to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council in 1994.

The Peace Fountain in the pond was erected in 1986 to mark the International Year of Peace, but was not switched on until 12 March 1987. The sculpture of “Cut-Out People” is by Dan McCarthy and dates from 1986. It forms an interesting silhouette against the sea and skyline from several viewpoints, but is not labelled.

The sun was still not setting, but as we left the park the sun was casting its long rays through the trees and out onto the blue waters of Dublin Bay.

The Tudor-revival pavilion … daubed with graffiti and under lock-and-key (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Through Lent with Vaughan Williams (10):
‘The Five Mystical Songs,’ 5, ‘Antiphon’

“George Herbert (1593-1633) at Bemerton” (William Dyce, 1860)

Patrick Comerford

For my reflections and devotions during Lent this year, each day I am reflecting on and invite you to listen to a piece of music or a hymn set to a tune by the great English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

For the weekdays of this week, I am reflecting on ‘The Five Mystical Songs,’ composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams between 1906 and 1911. Vaughan Williams conducted the first performance of the completed work at the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester on 14 September 1911.

This work sets four poems by the 17th century Welsh-born English poet and Anglican priest George Herbert (1593–1633), from his 1633 collection The Temple: Sacred Poems.

His first biographer, Izaak Walton, described Herbert on his deathbed as “composing such hymns and anthems as he and the angels now sing in heaven.” The Temple was edited by his friend Nicholas Ferrar and was published in Cambridge later that year as The Temple: Sacred poems and private ejaculations. It met with such popular acclaim that it had been reprinted 20 times by 1680, and went through eight editions by 1690.

George Herbert is commemorated in the Church of England and in calendars throughout the Anglican Communion on this day [27 February]. Many of his poems have become hymns that are well-known and well-loved by generations of Anglicans, including the fifth of these mystical songs, as the hymn ‘Let all the world in every corner sing,’ as well as ‘Teach me, my God and King’ and ‘King of Glory, King of Peace.’

Trinity Lane, Cambridge, in the snow, with the walls of Trinity College on the right ... both George Herbert and Vaughan Williams were students at Trinity College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Both George Herbert and Vaughan Williams were students at Trinity College Cambridge, and the composer's father, the Revd Arthur Vaughan Williams, served as a curate in Bemerton, the Wiltshire parish where Herbert had been vicar 200 years earlier. Vaughan Williams wrote his ‘Five Mystical Songs’ for a baritone soloist, with several choices for accompaniment: piano only; piano and string quintet; TTBB chorus, a cappella; and orchestra with optional SATB chorus, the choice Vaughan Williams used at the premiere.

Like Herbert’s simple verse, the songs are direct, but have the same intrinsic spirituality as the original text. They were supposed to be performed together, as a single work, but the styles of each vary quite significantly.



The first four songs are personal meditations in which the soloist takes a key role. However, the final ‘Antiphon’ is the most different of all the hymns. This the climactic finale to Vaughan Williams’s ‘Five Mystical Songs’ and it is a staple of the sacred choral repertoire and a superb culminating work for both concert and worship settings.

This is a triumphant hymn of praise, sung either by the chorus alone or by the soloist alone. Unlike the previous four songs, a separate version is provided for a solo baritone. It is also sometimes performed on its own, as an anthem for choir and organ: ‘Let all the world in every corner sing.’

I have chosen this fifth mystical song ‘Antiphon,’ as my Lenten meditation this morning [27 February 2015], the day in which we also commemorate George Herbert in the calendars of many churches throughout the Anglican Communion.

This poem has been set to music by many other composers and it is included in the New English Hymnal (Hymn 394) and the Irish Church Hymnal (Hymn 360) as the hymn, with a well-known tune ‘Luckington’ by Basil Harwood. This version was also sung at the enthronement of Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury 12 years ago on 27 February 2003.

In my own collection of music, ‘Antiphon’ is the concluding track (No 17) in collection Choral Classics recorded by Lichfeld Cathedral Choir in 2008 with Philip Scriven as Director and Martyn Rawles on the Organ, a programme of popular choral music from the 16th century to the present day.

5, Antiphon

Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing:
My God and King.

The heavens are not too high,
His praise may thither flie;
The earth is not too low,
His praises there may grow.

Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing: My God and King.

The Church with psalms must shout,
No doore can keep them out;
But above all, the heart
Must bear the longest part.

Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing:
My God and King.

Tomorrow:He who would Valiant be’ (Monk’s Gate)

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Reassessing TS Eliot’s life and
work 50 years after his death


Patrick Comerford

The ‘Lent as seen through the Movies’ series continues in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute this evening [26 February 2015], when I introduce the movie ‘Tom & Viv.’

This year [2015] marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of the great Anglican poet TS Eliot on 4 January 1965, and the one-hundredth anniversary of his marriage to his first wife Vivienne Haigh-Wood on 26 June 1915.

Last week, I handed out briefing notes for Brian Gilbert’s 1994 movie Tom & Viv, which we are watching this evening. This movie tells the story of a turbulent relationship. They were married after a brief courtship, and they separated in 1933. But they never divorced, and it was only after Vivienne’s death in 1947 that Eliot married his second wife, Valerie Fletcher (1926-2012).

The film is based on a 1984 play of the same name by the British playwright Michael Hastings, and was adapted as a screenplay by Adrian Hodges.

The makers of Tom & Viv claim it is a “truly passionate, tragic and wonderful story about an extraordinary couple who found great love but couldn’t handle it.” They say it enhances TS Eliot’s reputation by showing how his art grew directly out of his life.

The suffering this couple endured in their marriage undoubtedly contributed to the inspiration of ‘The Waste Land.’ But the film does not suggest this. Instead, Vivienne says “I am his mind” and it claims that not only that she gave him the title ‘The Waste Land’ but that she wrote parts of it too. Indeed, Michael Hastings says one cannot tell the difference between their handwriting on ‘The Waste Land.’



The film has sparked many allegations about Eliot:

1, That he took the credit for writing poetry, notably parts of ‘The Waste Land,’ that were written by Vivienne.
2, That he betrayed his deep love for Vivienne (and his muse) in his eagerness to become a member of the British literary and religious establishment.
3, That he was cold, ruthless and self-absorbed.
4, That he got hold of Vivienne’s money by becoming an executor of her father’s estate.
5, That he incarcerated Vivienne in a mental institution when she was in sound mental health, cruelly refused to visit her, and – while he went on to enjoy world renown – allowed her to languish there for nine years until, cheated and neglected, she died of heart failure at 58.

It appears Eliot continued to care about Vivienne after her breakdown or the breakdown of their marriage. During World War II, he wondered if she should be moved to Brighton or somewhere, with a private nurse, in case of being bombed. But why did he never visit her?

Is there any basis for the chocolate story? It is said that liked vanilla ice cream with hot chocolate sauce. One day he was eating it in a restaurant once when a man opposite said: “I can’t understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.” With hardly a pause, Eliot retorted: “Ah, but you’re not a poet” … and continued on eating.

Contrary to the depiction of his character in the movie, Vivienne’s brother, Maurice Haigh-Wood, wrote a moving letter he wrote from the trenches in 1917 in the spirit of Wilfred Owen or Siegfried Sassoon. Her father, far from being a despised philistine, was a painter; her mother never reproached Eliot for his treatment of her daughter. Nor did Vivienne resist his going into banking, resent his conversion, or batter at the doors during his baptism and confirmation in 1927.

There are other emphasises that critics see as distortions in the movie. For example, it dramatises the honeymoon in Eastbourne in 1915, but Eliot’s mentor Ezra Pound makes no appearance in the film.

This evening’s programme begins in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute at 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, I received confirmation this week that I have been invited to give two papers at the 11th annual Heinrich Böll memorial weekend on 2 to 4 May in the Cyril Gray Hall, Dugort, Achill Island. In one paper, I hope to look at the role Edward Nangle’s wealthy patrons played in shaping the ethos nbd policy of the Achill Mission, while the second paper provides an opportunity to look at TS Eliot’s Irish connections and to re-examine his attitudes to Irish people. This is an interesting opportunity on the 50th anniversary of his death and in the light of TS Eliot’s role in encouraging Louis MacNeice, who had many family links with Achill Island.

Through Lent with Vaughan Williams (9):
‘The Five Mystical Songs,’ 4, ‘The Call’



Patrick Comerford

For my reflections and devotions during Lent this year, each day I am reflecting on and invite you to listen to a piece of music or a hymn set to a tune by the great English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

For the weekdays of this week, I am reflecting on ‘The Five Mystical Songs,’ composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams between 1906 and 1911. Vaughan Williams conducted the first performance of the completed work at the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester on 14 September 1911.

This work sets four poems by the 17th century Welsh-born English poet and Anglican priest George Herbert (1593–1633), from his 1633 collection The Temple: Sacred Poems.

Many of Herbert’s poems have become hymns that are well-known and well-loved by generations of Anglicans. They include ‘Let all the world in every corner sing,’ ‘Teach me, my God and King’ and ‘King of Glory, King of Peace.’

Vaughan Williams wrote his ‘Five Mystical Songs’ for a baritone soloist, with several choices for accompaniment: piano only; piano and string quintet; TTBB chorus, a cappella; and orchestra with optional SATB chorus, the choice Vaughan Williams used at the premiere.

Like George Herbert’s simple verse, the songs are direct, but have the same intrinsic spirituality as the original text. They were supposed to be performed together, as a single work, but the styles of each vary quite significantly.

The first four songs are personal meditations in which the soloist takes a key role. In the fourth song, ‘The Call,’ the chorus does not feature at all.

For my meditation this morning [26 February 2015], I have chosen this fourth song, ‘The Call.’ Although this poem has been set to music several times, the setting by Vaughan Williams in his ‘Five Mystical Songs’ is undoubtedly the best known. Herbert placed the title ‘The Call’ over the poem in his collection The Temple, so Vaughan Williams adopted it for his setting.

This poem is included in the Irish Church Hymnal as the hymn ‘Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life’ (No 610), where it combines the first half of the version in BBC Songs of Praise (1997) with the second half in The Cambridge Hymnal (1967).

This short poem is simple and direct, and is composed almost completely with words of one syllable.

Herbert’s poetry abounds with Scriptural allusions, drawing on both the Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as references to the liturgy of the Church of England. In this short poem, we find references to Revelation 22: 26: “Come, Lord Jesus …” “Come” is the call of the poet to God, but it is also the response of the poet to a call from God.

The first stanza is also a working out of Christ’s self-description in which he tells Saint Thomas that he is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14: 6). But accepting and believing this means living a life that leads to the Cross, which also makes this an appropriate hymn for Lent.

The second stanza has allusions to Luke 8: 16, to the banquet of the Eucharist, and to the wedding at Cana (John 2: 10).

The third stanza summarises the qualities that characterise the soul’s intimate relationship with Christ, with the final line bringing together the three keywords, Joy, Love and Heart.

4, The Call

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a Way, as gives us breath:
Such a Truth, as ends all strife:
Such a Life, as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
Such a Light, as shows a feast:
Such a Feast, as mends in length:
Such a Strength, as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
Such a Joy, as none can move:
Such a Love, as none can part:
Such a Heart, as joyes in love.

Tomorrow: ‘The Five Mystical Songs,’ 5, ‘Antiphon

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Through Lent with Vaughan Williams (8):
‘The Five Mystical Songs,’ 3, ‘Love Bade Me Welcome’



Patrick Comerford

For my reflections and devotions during Lent this year, each day I am reflecting on and invite you to listen to a piece of music or a hymn set to a tune by the great English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

For the weekdays of this week, I am reflecting on ‘The Five Mystical Songs,’ composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams between 1906 and 1911. Vaughan Williams conducted the first performance of the completed work at the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester on 14 September 1911.

The work, taken as one, sets four poems by the 17th century Welsh-born English poet and Anglican priest George Herbert (1593–1633), from his 1633 collection The Temple: Sacred Poems.

Many of George Herbert’s poems have become hymns that are well-known and well-loved by generations of Anglicans. They include ‘Let all the world in every corner sing,’ ‘Teach me, my God and King’ and ‘King of Glory, King of Peace.’

Vaughan Williams wrote his ‘Five Mystical Songs’ for a baritone soloist, with several choices for accompaniment: piano only; piano and string quintet; TTBB chorus, a cappella; and orchestra with optional SATB chorus, the choice Vaughan Williams used at the premiere.

Like George Herbert’s simple verse, the songs are direct, but have the same intrinsic spirituality as the original text. They were supposed to be performed together, as a single work, but the styles of each vary quite significantly.

The first four songs are personal meditations in which the soloist takes a key role, particularly in this third song – ‘Love Bade Me Welcome’ – where the chorus has a wholly supporting role, quietly and wordlessly singing the plainsong melody O Sacrum Convivium.

I have chosen the third of these Five Mystical Songs, ‘Love Bade Me Welcome,’ for my meditation think about this morning [25 February 2015]. This is part three of the poem ‘Love’ in George Herbert’s collection The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations (1633).

3, Love Bade Me Welcome

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back.
Guiltie of dust and sinne.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.

A guest, I answer’d, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkinde, ungrateful? Ah, my deare,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, sayes Love, who bore the blame?
My deare, then I will serve.
You must sit down, sayes Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.


Tomorrow: The Call

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Through Lent with Vaughan Williams (7):
‘The Five Mystical Songs,’ 2, ‘I Got Me Flowers’



Patrick Comerford

For my reflections and devotions during Lent this year, each day I am reflecting on and invite you to listen to a piece of music or a hymn set to a tune by the great English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

For the weekdays of this week, I am reflecting on ‘The Five Mystical Songs,’ composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams between 1906 and 1911. Vaughan Williams conducted the first performance of the completed work at the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester on 14 September 1911.

The work, taken as one, sets four poems by the 17th century Welsh-born English poet and Anglican priest George Herbert (1593–1633), from his 1633 collection The Temple: Sacred Poems.

Many of George Herbert’s poems have become hymns that are well-known and well-loved by generations of Anglicans. They include ‘Let all the world in every corner sing,’ ‘Teach me, my God and King’ and ‘King of Glory, King of Peace.’

Vaughan Williams wrote his ‘Five Mystical Songs’ for a baritone soloist, with several choices for accompaniment: piano only; piano and string quintet; TTBB chorus, a cappella; and orchestra with optional SATB chorus, the choice Vaughan Williams used at the premiere.

Like George Herbert’s simple verse, the songs are fairly direct, but have the same intrinsic spirituality as the original text. They were supposed to be performed together, as a single work, but the styles of each vary quite significantly.

The first four songs are personal meditations in which the soloist takes a key role. Vaughan Williams has divided George Herbert’s poem Easter into two parts to provide the first two songs, ‘Easter’ and ‘I Got Me Flowers.’

As Lent is a pilgrimage or journey towards Easter, I have chosen the second of these Five Mystical Songs, ‘I Got Me Flowers,’ for my meditation this morning [24 February 2015]. This is second part of George Herbert’s poem ‘Easter.’

2, I Got Me Flowers

I got me flowers to strew thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sunne arising in the East.
Though he give light, and th’East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.


Tomorrow: The Five Mystical Songs,’ 3, ‘Love Bade Me Welcome’

Monday, 23 February 2015

Through Lent with Vaughan Williams (6):
‘The Five Mystical Songs,’ 1, ‘Easter’



Patrick Comerford

For my reflections and devotions during Lent this year, each day I am reflecting on and invite you to listen to a piece of music or a hymn set to a tune by the great English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

For the weekdays of this week, I am reflecting on ‘The Five Mystical Songs,’ composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams between 1906 and 1911. Vaughan Williams conducted the first performance of the completed work at the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester on 14 September 1911.

The work, taken as one, sets four poems by the 17th century Welsh-born English poet and Anglican priest George Herbert (1593–1633), from his 1633 collection The Temple: Sacred Poems.

Many of George Herbert’s poems have become hymns that are well-known and well-loved by generations of Anglicans. They include ‘Let all the world in every corner sing,’ ‘Teach me, my God and King’ and ‘King of Glory, King of Peace.’

He was the Public Orator at Cambridge for eight years, and spent only three years as a priest before he died.

Herbert was a younger contemporary of Shakespeare, and lived at a time when the English language was expanding and developing its literary capacities, aided by the publication of the King James Version of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.

Like most Anglicans of his day, Herbert sought to steer a middle course between the Roman Catholics and the Puritans. Perhaps he appealed to Vaughan Williams because were both men were creatively preoccupied with that age-old conflict between God and World, Flesh and Spirit, Soul and Senses.

Vaughan Williams wrote his ‘Five Mystical Songs’ for a baritone soloist, with several choices for accompaniment: piano only; piano and string quintet; TTBB chorus, a cappella; and orchestra with optional SATB chorus, the choice Vaughan Williams used at the premiere.

Like George Herbert’s simple verse, the songs are fairly direct, but have the same intrinsic spirituality as the original text. The first four songs are personal meditations in which the soloist takes a key role. They were supposed to be performed together, as a single work, but the styles of each vary quite significantly.

Vaughan Williams has divided George Herbert’s poem ‘Easter ’into two parts to provide the first two songs, ‘Easter’ and ‘I Got Me Flowers.’

As Lent is a pilgrimage or journey towards Easter, I have chosen the first of these Five Mystical Songs, ‘Easter,’ to think about this morning [23 February 2015]. The setting for ‘Easter’ is elaborate in design and Michael Kennedy ascribes its richness of orchestral detail to “Elgarian prototypes.”

1, Easter

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen.
Sing his praise without delayes,
Who takes thee by the hand,
that thou likewise with him may’st rise;
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part with all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name, who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is the best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song pleasant and long;
Or since all musick is but three parts vied and multiplied.
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.


Tomorrow: ‘The Five Mystical Songs,’ 2, ‘I Got Me Flowers

Sunday, 22 February 2015

An island beach walk, an old Jewish
cemetery, and a musical start to Lent

Walking on the beach on Bull Island this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

An “Orange Alert” storm warning is in place throughout Ireland this evening, there are high winds and the rains are heavy, with occasional flashes of lightning.

But before the storm broke, two of us headed out to Dollymount on Clontarf Road, immediately north of Dublin’s inner city, for a walk along the Bull Wall and the beach on Bull Island.

Despite the churning waters and rising tides, families in large number were enjoying the new vistas created by nature and the spectacular views along the beach north to Sutton and Howth Head and out to the Irish Sea.

Watching the ferries leaving Dublin Port from Bull Island this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Close to the beach a number of ferries and cargo ships were making their way out of Dublin Port and gliding along the water, parallel to the beach. They were so close it was possible to imagine that one could still be hardy and foolish enough to swim out towards them, despite the threatened storm.

Even as the rains began to fall, car loads were still driving across the single-land wooden bridge linking Dollymount with Bull Island. Winter storms add an additional attraction to the sea and sand at this time of the year.

The gate lode to oldest Jewish cemetery in Dublin has a plaque saying in was ‘Built in the Year 5618’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

On our way out to the Bull Wall, we stopped in Ballybough in search of Dublin’s oldest Jewish cemetery. The hint that the hidden cemetery is there is found on a gable-ended house with a plaque that is inscribed “Built in the Year 5618.”

The reference is to the year 1857 in the Hebrew Calendar. The house was built as a gate lodge for a much older cemetery that is almost 300 years old.

In the 1700s, a small number of Jews had settled in the Annadale area off Ellis Avenue (now Philipsburg Avenue), in Fairview. Most of these Marrano Jews were descendants of families who had fled the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal, and some also came from the Netherlands.

In 1718, Alexander Felix (David Penso), Jacob Do Porto, and David Machado Do Sequeira, on behalf of the Jewish community in Dublin, leased a plot of land for a burial ground from Captain Chichester Phillips, MP, of Drumcondra Castle.

The plot was bought in 1748 by the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in London acting with Michael Phillips, of Crane Lane Synagogue, Dublin, with a leasehold for 1,000 years at the annual rent of one peppercorn.

The gate lodge was built in 1857 to replace a temporary hut built by the Cohen family in 1798.

A glimpse of the old Jewish graveyard and the graves in Ballybough (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

I caught a glimpse of the cemetery itself, which has more than 200 graves. In 1908, Lewis Harris was elected an Alderman of the City of Dublin. However, he died the day before he was to be made Lord Mayor and was buried in Fairview Strand, beside his wife Juliette.

Burials had stopped around 1900, with just a few burials in 1901, 1908, 1946, and 1958. After that last burial in 1958, most Jewish burials in Dublin now take place in Dolphin’s Barn.

Today, 148 tombstones are still standing in the cemetery and are inscribed in Hebrew, and English, with the Jewish calendar month of death, along with the birth, age and place of origin of the person. The Cohen tombstones all have a depiction of hands over their remains. The reason for this is to show that they were descendants of the Cohens who were the Priests of Israel and the hands are shown as blessing the people.

Looking across Dublin port at the twin towers of the Pigeon House (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Before arriving in Ballybough, we also visited Dublin Port. It is ten years or more since I travelled across the Irish Sea on a ferry from Dublin Port, and today – perhaps because it was a Sunday afternoon – the place seemed eerily quiet, despite the steady flow of shipping out of the port.

It is estimated that about two-thirds of port traffic in the Republic of Ireland passes through Dublin Port. The Port is located on both sides of the mouth of the River Liffey, out to its mouth. The main part in on the north side of the river, and covers 205 hectares at the end of East Wall and North Wall, from Alexandra Quay. The smaller part of the port, on the south side of the river, covers 51 hectares and lies at the beginning of the Pigeon House peninsula.

But the mediaeval port of Dublin was a short distance upstream, on the south bank of the Liffey, below Christ Church Cathedral, from its current location. In 1715, the Great South Wall was built to shelter the entrance to the port, and Poolbeg Lighthouse at the end of the South Bull Wall was built in 1767.

Looking east along the River Liffey this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Cmerford, 2015)

When James Gandon’s Custom House was built further downstream in 1791, the port moved downstream to the north bank of the river estuary. In 1800, Captain William Bligh, better known for his part in the mutiny on the Bounty, recommended building the Bull Wall. When the Bull Wall was built in 1842, the North Bull Island formed slowly as sand built up behind it.

We had driven along the north banks of the Liffey on our way to and from the port and the Bull Island.

With the Revd Dr Patrick McGlinchey and the Revd Mpole Samuel Masemola in the Chapter House of Christ Church Cathedral

Earlier in the day, I was in Christ Church Cathedral, where I was deacon at the Cathedral Eucharist for the First Sunday in Lent, reading the Gospel (Mark 1: 9-15) and assisting at the administration of Holy Communion.

The Dean, the Very Revd Dermot Dunne, presided at the Eucharist, and the preacher was my colleague, the Revd Dr Patrick McGlinchey. It was also good to see the Revd Mpole Samuel Masemola from South Africa robe for the Eucharist this morning. He is the Assistant Chaplain at the Anglican Chaplaincy in Oslo, which is part of the Diocese of Europe in the Church of England.

The setting was Collegium Regale by Herbert Howells (1892-1983). This setting and its name find their origins in a challenge from Eric Milner-White when he was the Dean of King’s College, Cambridge.

Throughout Lent, I am reflecting each morning on a hymn setting or a piece of music associated with Ralph Vaughan Williams. It is interesting that Howells was confirmed in his conviction that he should become a composer when he was in his late teens and heard the premiere of Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis at the Gloucester Three Choirs Festival in Gloucester Cathedral in September 1910.

Howells recalled later in life how Vaughan Williams sat next to the awestruck aspiring composer for the remainder of the concert and shared with him his score of Edward Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius.Both Vaughan Williams and the Tudor composers, including Tallis, profoundly influenced Howells’s, and the friendship between Howells and Vaughan Williams developed into an interesting musical understanding.

‘The Passion of the Christ’ … a Lenten
reflection in Bunclody Union of parishes


Patrick Comerford

The following feature is published in The Bunclody Union Newsletter this morning, 22 February 2015, the First Sunday in Lent:

Passion

‘The Passion of the Christ’ … released during Lent 2004, became the highest-grossing non-English language film ever.

Eleven years ago, I brought my two sons to see The Passion of the Christ (2004), Mel Gibson’s movie that dramatises his interpretation and synthesis of the passion narrative in the Four Gospels.

The Passion of the Christ is an appropriate movie to consider as we prepare for Lent. It largely tells the story of the last 12 hours of Christ’s life, from the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane to (briefly, albeit very briefly) his Resurrection, with flashbacks to his childhood, the Sermon on the Mount, the saving of the women about to be stoned, and the Last Supper, with a constructed dialogue entirely in Aramaic, Latin and Hebrew.

When the movie was released on on Ash Wednesday (25 February) 2004, it stirred considerable controversy, with allegations of anti-Semitism, the amount of graphic, if not exacerbated or gratuitous, violence, particularly during the scourging and crucifixion scenes, and serious questions about its interpretation of the Biblical text, narrative and message.

On the other hand, there were many claims of miraculous savings, forgiveness, new-found faith, and even one report of a man who confessed to murdering his girlfriend although police had decided previously she had died by suicide.

The Passion of the Christ was a box-office success – it grossed more than $370 million in the US, and became the highest-grossing non-English language film ever. As we left the cinema, my then-teenage sons were not so much shocked as stunned. They noticed too how everyone left the cinema in silence.

The success and attention of the movie, apart from the media controversies, raises many questions for us:

● How do we convey and proclaim the message of Christ?

● Are we using means that are out-dated, not speaking to people, who are truly willing to listen and to learn?

● Where did we get the idea that no-one would come to church after confirmation age?

● Where did we get the idea that no-one would come to church and sit in the dark in uncomfortable chairs?

● Where did we get the idea that no-one would hear the Gospel story and still come out wanting to tell others and to share the experience?

Sometimes when movies ridicule the Church, I wonder: do we deserve it?

How many of you have bad experiences of weakly-thought out ideas at school assembly?

– By kind permission of Revd Patrick Comerford

Through Lent with Vaughan Williams
(5): ‘O God of earth and altar’



Patrick Comerford

For my reflections and devotions during Lent this year, each day I am reflecting to reflecting on and invite you to listen to a piece of music or a hymn set to a tune by the great English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

Today [22 February 2015] is the First Sunday in Lent, and the readings in the Revised Common Lectionary are: Genesis 9: 8-17; Psalm 25: 1-9; I Peter 3: 18-22; and Mark 1: 9-15.

This morning, as I prepare for the Cathedral Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral later this morning, I have chosen the hymn, ‘O God of earth and altar,’ by the English writer Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936).

This hymn is over 100 years old, yet its concerns are very relevant today, as we are invited to pray about the plight of a world torn by poverty, war and misrule and offered cheap and trite answers by cruel opportunists whose only interest is in power.

The hymn was first published in the English Hymnal (1906), edited by Canon Percy Dearmer and Vaughan Williams (No 562), and is included in the New English Hymnal (No 492), where it is set to the English folk melody, King’s Lynn, arranged by Vaughan Williams. Although the hymn is not included in the Irish Church Hymnal, Edward Darling and Donald Davison, in their Companion to Church Hymnal, suggest the solemn, robust tune underlines the message of the text.



Vaughan Williams, who also used this tune in his ‘Norfolk Rhapsody No 2,’ first heard it in East Hordon, Essex, on 23 April 1904. At the time, he was travelling around England, country collecting traditional folk songs to use in his own compositions. He heard this tune a second time in King’s Lynn on 9 January 1905 when he was introduced in the Tilden Smith, a pub in the old North End, by the Revd Edward Evans or the Revd Alfred Huddle to the singers Thomas Anderson, a 70-year-old fisherman, and James ‘Duggie’ Carter.

The weather that day was rough and fishermen who were unable to get out on The Wash. They had gathered in the Tilden Smith, and among them were Duggie Carter and Joe Anderson, who were singing out songs like the ‘Captain’s Apprentice,’ ‘Dogger Bank’ and ‘The Mermaid.’

The words of the original song that provides this tune tell of a young poacher who was transported to to convict settlement in Van Diemen’s Land, Tasmania. The melodies are said to have influenced some of Vaughan Williams’s later works, including his Norfolk Rhapsodies and Sea Symphony.

The Tilden Smith then stood at the heart of the North End, which was a self-contained fishing community, just a few streets away from Saint Nicholas Chapel, also known as the fishermen’s church. The nearby Fisher Fleet was home to hundreds of boats, while up to 1,000 people lived crammed into the warren of cottages. It has since been bulldozed by slum clearance and to make way for new roads, and the Tilden Smith was renamed The Retreat.

‘Duggie’ Carter sang ‘The Captain’s Apprentice’ and Joe Anderson sang ‘Young Henry the Poacher,’ which Vaughan Williams used in the English Hymnal in 1906 as the tune for Chesterton’s poem. The hymn, no. 562, bears the name King’s Lynn. Both Carter and Anderson were known well by the curate of St Nicholas’ Chapel, the Reverend Alfred Huddle, and would have sung in the Chapel regularly, as well as in more secular settings.

GK Chesterton, who was born in 1874 in Campden Hill, Kensington, was a prolific and well-known journalist, author and poet. He found Christianity provided the answers to the many dilemmas and paradoxes he found in life.

He was a friend and contemporary of writers such as George Bernard Shaw, Hilaire Belloc and HG Wells. He died in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, in 1936. His ‘Father Brown’ mystery stories (1911-1936) remain popular and have been adapted for television.

O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
but take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
From lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches
That comfort cruel men,
From sale and profanation
Of honour and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation,
Deliver us, good Lord!

Tie in a living tether
The prince and priest and thrall,
Bind all our lives together,
Smite us and save us all;
In ire and exultation
Aflame with faith, and free,
Lift up a living nation,
A single sword to thee.


Collect of the First Sunday in Lent:

Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
Give us grace to discipline ourselves
in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer:

Lord God,
you renew us with the living bread from heaven.
Nourish our faith,
increase our hope,
strengthen our love,
and enable us to live by every word
that proceeds from out of your mouth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Tomorrow: ‘The Five Mystical Songs,’ 1, ‘Easter

Patrick Comerford adds on 27 March 2015:

This hymn was sung as the opening hymn at the burial of Richard III on 26 March 2015 in Leicester Cathedral, contrasting the imperfections of earthly life – ‘not least as exemplified by our faltering rulers,’ an explanatory note suggested.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

‘A Clash of Civilisations’ …
or ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’?

Is there a looming clash of civilisations? Dark blue: Western ‘Christendom’; sky blue: Orthodox ‘Christendom’; green: Islamic world; dark red: Sinic world; purple: Latin America; brown: Sub-Saharan Africa; orange: Hindu world; yellow: Buddhist world; grey: former British colonies; turquoise: Turkey; blue: Israel; light brown: Ethiopia; light green: Haiti; red: Japan

Patrick Comerford

The term “Clash of Civilisations” first gained prominence, and acquired credibility in the west when it appeared in a paper in the journal Foreign Affairs in 1996 that gave its title to a subsequent book in 1997. At the time, Samuel Huntington spoke of a “clash of civilisations” between the Christian or post-Christian world, and the Islamic world.

Until his death in 2008, Huntington continued to speak in terms of a looming “clash of civilisations between Islam and the West.”

Many politicians and commentators on the far right now claim his predictions are being worked out. But they fail to see that it is the worst sort of “wish fulfilment” on their part. It is almost as if every horror, every murder, by Isis helps to bolster their prejudices.

the apparent outworking of some of his predictions, there are many faults in the theory of an inevitable “clash of civilisations.” Huntington equated a religion with a civilisation, so that Islam is a unitary political, social and definable “civilisation” that depends on a religion for its understanding and explanation, while Christianity is posed as underpinning western civilisation – and from this we are led to the prejudice that Islam made no contribution to Western culture and civilisation.

An outrageous example of this prejudice came last month from an American commentator who claims to be a so-called “terrorism expert.” He told Fox News that Birmingham in England is “totally Muslim, where non-Muslims just simply don’t go.”

I have known Birmingham well for almost 50 years, I have studied on short-term residential courses, including one on Muslim-Christian dialogue, I have written about its sights and delights and I travel through Birmingham countless times each year. So my reaction to this self-styled expert, who has never visited Birmingham, is neither impulsive not uninformed.

A multilingual and multicultural welcome to Birmingham and its cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

But while I can dismiss Steve Emerson as an ideological extremist, I still have to worry about what he says. He is the founder of the self-styled “Investigative Project on Terrorism,” and he has been called to testify as an expert witness called to at least one US Congressional committee.

In other words, American politicians form American policy on the foundations laid by this man. And if you build a house on garbage, it is going to fall into the garbage.

Emerson was supposed to be offering Fox News his expertise on the attacks on the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Instead, he launched into an amazing “expert” account of dangerous parts of Britain being controlled by Muslims, giving details of “no-go zones” in France, Belgium, Britain and many other parts of Europe.

Some expert. As more than a million people marched through Paris in a show of unity after those attacks in France, he told Fox News that Birmingham is a “country within a country” and he agreed with the Fox News presenter Jeanine Pirro that England’s second city is a “caliphate.”

He told his American viewers that Europe is not doing enough to combat the rise of Islamic extremism. “You basically have zones where sharia courts were set up, where Muslim density is very intense, where the police don’t go in, and where it’s basically a separate country almost, a country within a country,” this self-styled “expert” claimed.

Emerson said these no-go zones are in London and Birmingham, and he claimed police brutality against non-Muslims is common place: “And [in] parts of London, there are actually Muslim religious police that actually beat wound seriously anyone who doesn’t dress according to Muslim, religious Muslim attire.”

“So there’s a situation that Western Europe is not dealing with,” he claimed.

But it is even worse in Birmingham, he said. There, he said, is an entire city where non-Muslims are not welcome – an entire city. He states: “And in Britain, it’s not just no-go zones, there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in.”

His claims amused, amazed and bewildered people living in Birmingham. Many took to Twitter, starting an hilarious hashtag #FoxNewsFacts.

Emmerson has since apologised, saying he has “made a terrible error for which I am deeply sorry.”

He went on to say: “There was no excuse for making this mistake and I owe an apology to every resident of Birmingham. I am not going to make any excuses. I made an inexcusable error. And I am obligated to openly acknowledge that mistake.”

Deeply sorry, indeed. But this is the sort of “intelligence” and “information” that leads to whole cities being bombed and whole countries being invaded in pursuit of the “clash of civilisations” or the “war on terror” or whatever label these people want to give the military out-workings of their prejudices.

The damage has been down, and what Emerson said is probably believed and being repeated as fact by gullible viewers. He has added fuel to the fire and doubtlessly helped to stoke Islamophobia in America.

His apology after his action can never retrieve the situation, can never redeem the damage he has created. How many viewers saw him, heard him and believed him? What else is Fox News wrong about? And how many of its viewers believe their “experts” and their facts”?

Emerson told us nothing about Birmingham and everything about Fox News, and everything that is wrong about a foreign policy analysis that accepts Huntington’s prediction of a looking “clash of civilisations.”

Even if I only stop for coffee, I am looking forward to passing through Birmingham later this week.

There are fundamental, underlying faults in Huntington’s analysis.

In all religions, and not just Christianity and not just Islam, there is a history of those who have used their beliefs and their prejudices to create violence and foment war. As a Christian, I only have to think about the Crusades and the brutality of the concept of the Christendom or the cruelty of the Inquisition to realise that I cannot point the finger at anyone.

But Huntington also presumes that there are such things as separate civilisations rather than complementary, overlapping and interdependent civilisations, and that it is dangerous to try to delineate them, or self-defeating to separate them.

If there is an Islamic civilisation is it the one that – while we were in the Dark Ages in Europe – preserved in the universities of Cairo and Baghdad Euclidean geometry, developed algebra, revived Hippocratic medicine, continued to read Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, bequeathed the courtyard, the dome and the fountain to architecture, developed astronomy.

Why is that the Jews of the Dodecanese islands, a community with 2,500 years of history, could thrive and prosper under four or five centuries of Islamic rule by the Ottoman caliphs, but were brought close to annihilation and extinction within months of the arrival of the German Nazis in the middle of the last century?

The concept of a “Holy War” is not an Islamic concept. The word jihad has a very different meaning. The concept of a “holy war” develops out of the writings in the fifth century of Saint of Augustine, who wrote The City of God shortly after Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410. The descendants of the Barbarians in question have long been rehabilitated as the virtuous capitalist states of the European Union.

It is worth remembering that in the First Crusade (1095-1099), at the capture of Jerusalem in 1099, Orthodox Christians fought alongside Jewish and Muslim residents to defend Jerusalem against the Crusaders, so that many Christians were slaughtered alongside their Muslim neighbours.

Many Muslims sought shelter in al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock and the Temple Mount area. One Crusader account reports how the Crusaders “were killing and slaying even to the Temple of Solomon, where the slaughter was so great that our men waded in blood up to their ankles.”

According to Raymond of Aguilers, “in the Temple and porch of Solomon men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins.”

Fulcher of Chartres says: “In this temple 10,000 were killed. Indeed, if you had been there you would have seen our feet coloured to our ankles with the blood of the slain. But what more shall I relate? None of them were left alive; neither women nor children were spared.”

The Anglican theologian Colin Chapman says the Crusades “have left a deep scar on the minds of Muslims all over the world. Although they ended more than 700 years ago, for many Muslims it is as if they happened only yesterday. And recent events such as the Rushdie affair, the Gulf War and the Bosnian conflict have made many [Muslims] feel that the Crusades have never ended.”

“Το παιδομάζωμα” (ή “το σκλαβοπάζαρο”) του Νικολάου Γύζη ... The Levy of Christian Children, by Nicholas Ghyzis

We may cower at the concept of a self-styled “Islamic State. But religion also played too significant a role in defining nationality in the emergence of Europe nation states.

In the creation of the modern Greek state and the modern Turkish state, religion played a key role in the forging of national identities, so that Greek was equated with Orthodox Christian and Turk with Muslim.

As Yugoslavia was breaking up in the 1990s, the labels Catholic and Orthodox were used to distinguish Croat from Serb. When Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo slaughtered, was it because they were Muslims in Bosnia (where they were otherwise like all other Slavs)? Was it because they were Albanians or Muslims in Kosovo?

The challenge in today’s world is to find how we can move from encounter to dialogue and understanding, and avoid what Huntington predicts as a looking “clash of civilisations.”

But we have always used the enemy at the gate as a means of subjugating and oppressing those inside the walls. External enemies, real or imagines, are a gift to oppressive rulers, who behave like bad parents threatening their children with the bogey man rather than helping them to grow and develop in love and to overcome their fears with maturity.

Περιμένοντας τους Bαρβάρους (Waiting for the Barbarians), CP Cavafy:

— Τι περιμένουμε στην αγορά συναθροισμένοι;

Είναι οι βάρβαροι να φθάσουν σήμερα.

— Γιατί μέσα στην Σύγκλητο μια τέτοια απραξία;
Τι κάθοντ’ οι Συγκλητικοί και δεν νομοθετούνε;

Γιατί οι βάρβαροι θα φθάσουν σήμερα.
Τι νόμους πια θα κάμουν οι Συγκλητικοί;
Οι βάρβαροι σαν έλθουν θα νομοθετήσουν.

—Γιατί ο αυτοκράτωρ μας τόσο πρωί σηκώθη,
και κάθεται στης πόλεως την πιο μεγάλη πύλη
στον θρόνο επάνω, επίσημος, φορώντας την κορώνα;

Γιατί οι βάρβαροι θα φθάσουν σήμερα.
Κι ο αυτοκράτωρ περιμένει να δεχθεί
τον αρχηγό τους. Μάλιστα ετοίμασε
για να τον δώσει μια περγαμηνή. Εκεί
τον έγραψε τίτλους πολλούς κι ονόματα.

— Γιατί οι δυο μας ύπατοι κ’ οι πραίτορες εβγήκαν
σήμερα με τες κόκκινες, τες κεντημένες τόγες•
γιατί βραχιόλια φόρεσαν με τόσους αμεθύστους,
και δαχτυλίδια με λαμπρά, γυαλιστερά σμαράγδια•
γιατί να πιάσουν σήμερα πολύτιμα μπαστούνια
μ’ ασήμια και μαλάματα έκτακτα σκαλιγμένα;

Γιατί οι βάρβαροι θα φθάσουν σήμερα•
και τέτοια πράγματα θαμπώνουν τους βαρβάρους.

—Γιατί κ’ οι άξιοι ρήτορες δεν έρχονται σαν πάντα
να βγάλουνε τους λόγους τους, να πούνε τα δικά τους;

Γιατί οι βάρβαροι θα φθάσουν σήμερα•
κι αυτοί βαρυούντ’ ευφράδειες και δημηγορίες.

— Γιατί ν’ αρχίσει μονομιάς αυτή η ανησυχία
κ’ η σύγχυσις. (Τα πρόσωπα τι σοβαρά που εγίναν).
Γιατί αδειάζουν γρήγορα οι δρόμοι κ’ η πλατέες,
κι όλοι γυρνούν στα σπίτια τους πολύ συλλογισμένοι;

Γιατί ενύχτωσε κ’ οι βάρβαροι δεν ήλθαν.
Και μερικοί έφθασαν απ’ τα σύνορα,
και είπανε πως βάρβαροι πια δεν υπάρχουν.

Και τώρα τι θα γένουμε χωρίς βαρβάρους.
Οι άνθρωποι αυτοί ήσαν μια κάποια λύσις.

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn’t anything happening in the senate?
Why do the senators sit there without legislating?

Because the barbarians are coming today.
What laws can the senators make now?
Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting at the city’s main gate
on his throne, in state, wearing the crown?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor is waiting to receive their leader.
He has even prepared a scroll to give him,
replete with titles, with imposing names.

Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
and rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and things like that dazzle the barbarians.

Why don’t our distinguished orators come forward as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

Why this sudden restlessness, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home so lost in thought?

Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come.
And some who have just returned from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.

And now, what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is President of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Irish CND). He was speaking on a panel at the annual meeting of the Irish Anti-War Movement, “The new ‘War on Terror’ – is there a ‘Clash of Civilisations?’ in the Teachers’ Club, Parnell Square, Dublin, on 21 February 2015.

Through Lent with Vaughan Williams
(4): ‘Jerusalem, thou City blest’

‘No sun, in all his radiance bright, / Thy glory could reflect’ … sunset at Skerries Harbour last week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

For my reflections and devotions during Lent this year, each day I am reflecting to reflecting on and invite you to listen to a piece of music or a hymn set to a tune by the great English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

This morning [21 February 2015], I have chosen the hymn ‘Jerusalem, thou City blest,’ which is set to the tune ‘Newbury’ in the New English Hymnal (No 228).

Yesterday, I was reflecting on the hymn, ‘There is no moment of my life,’ by the late Father William Brian Foley (1919-2000), which is set to this tune by Vaughan Williams in the Irish Church Hymnal (No 19). But he first harmonised ‘Newbury’ for the English Hymnal in 1906, and set it to ‘The Maker of the sun and moon’ by Laurence Housman (1865-1959).

This tune is one of the many folk melodies arranged by Vaughan Williams. He found it in a collection published by Miss MG Arkwright in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society. There it was used for a Christmas carol, ‘There’s six good days set in a week,’ also known as the ‘Hampshire Mummers’ Carol.’

‘Jerusalem, thou City blest’ is similar to a hymn with the same name written by the Revd Edward Caswall (1814-1878), but this hymn is attributed to the Editors of the New English Hymnal, where it first appears.

The New English Hymnal, published in 1986 by the Canterbury Press, is the successor to the 1906 English Hymnal. Its general editor was the then chairman of the English Hymnal Company, George Timms, and the musical editor was Anthony Caesar, assisted by Arthur Hutchings, Christopher Dearnley and Michael Fleming.

The English Hymnal (1906) was edited by Percy Dearmer and Vaughan Williams, and was seen as the musical companion to Dearmer’s practical guide to liturgy, The Parson’s Handbook.
‘The music is intended to be essentially congregational in character …’ Caughan Williams said in the opening words of his preface. The high quality of the music is due largely to his work as musical editor. The standard of the arrangements and original compositions made it one of the most influential hymnals of the last century. The hymnal included the first printing of several arrangements and hymn settings by Vaughan Williams.

Today’s hymn is particularly recommended for holy days, and verse 6 is suitable for a saint’s day.

Jerusalem, thou City blest,
Fair home of God’s elect!
No sun, in all his radiance bright,
Thy glory could reflect.

In thee no sickness may be seen,
No hurt, no ache, no sore;
In thee there us no dreads of death,
But life for evermore.

The blessed saints, who’ve run the race,
With glory there are crowned;
No tongue can tell, nor heart conceive
What joys in thee they’ve found.

God is their sun, and Christ their light,
They see him face to face;
The Spirit’s perfect bond of love
Doth every heart embrace.

O happy ones, in heaven who dwell,
Pour forth for us your prayer,
That God our Father through his Son,
May bring us with you there.

And praise and honour be to him
Whom earth and heaven obey,
For that blest saint whose festival
Doth glorify this day.


Tomorrow:O God of earth and altar

Friday, 20 February 2015

Through Lent with Vaughan Williams
(3): ‘There is no moment of my life’

‘ … if I should go where all is dark, / he makes my darkness light’ ... evening lights on the harbour in Skerries earlier this month (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

For my reflections and devotions during Lent this year, each day I am reflecting to reflecting on and invite you to listen to a piece of music or a hymn set to a tune by the great English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

This morning [20 February 2015], I have chosen the hymn ‘There is no moment of my life,’ by the late Father William Brian Foley (1919-2000), which is set to the tune ‘Newbury’ in the Irish Church Hymnal (No 19).

This arrangement of ‘Newbury’ by Vaughan Williams is also used in some hymnals as a setting for the hymn ‘Jerusalem, thou city blest’ (see New English Hymnal, No 228) and ‘Ye high and lowly, rich and poor’ by Anne Steele.

This tune is one of the folk melodies arranged by Vaughan Williams. He found the tune in a collection published by Miss MG Arkwright in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society. There it was used for a Christmas carol, ‘There’s six good days set in a week,’ also known as the ‘Hampshire Mummers’ Carol.’

Vaughan Williams harmonised the melody for the English Hymnal in 1906, and set it to ‘The Maker of the sun and moon’ by Laurence Housman (1865-1959):

The Maker of the sun and moon,
The Maker of our earth,
Lo! late in time, a fairer boon,
Himself is brought to birth!

How blest was all creation then,
When God so gave increase;
And Christ, to heal the hearts of men,
Brought righteousness and peace!

No star in all the heights of heaven
But burned to see Him go;
Yet unto earth alone was given
His human form to know.

His human form, by man denied,
Took death for human sin:
His endless love, through faith descried,
Still lives the world to win.

O perfect love, outpassing sight,
O light beyond our ken,
Come down through all the world tonight,
And heal the hearts of men!


This morning’s hymn, ‘There is no moment of my life,’ which is set in the Irish Church Hymnal to ‘Newbury’ by Vaughan Williams, was written by the late Brian Foley. He was born into an Irish family in Liverpool, where he later served as a Roman Catholic priest from 1945.

This hymn is based on the principal theme of Psalm 139, and is one of 14 hymns by Foley in the New Catholic Hymnal (1971). Foley once wrote that he tried to base all his hymn writing “as far as possible on scripture and theology.”

It has an elegant simplicity and a perfect rhythmical structure. In some hymnals it is set ‘My Life in God’ by Elizabeth Poston, but it has been set to other tunes, notably ‘Gerontius’ by JB Dykes (1823-1876).

There is no moment of my life,
no place where I may go,
no action which God does not see,
no thought he does not know.

Before I speak, my words are known,
and all that I decide.
To come or go: God knows my choice,
and makes himself my guide.

If I should close my eyes to him,
he comes to give me sight;
if I should go where all is dark,
he makes my darkness light.

He knew my days before all days,
before I came to be;
he keeps me, loves me, in my ways;
no lover such as he.


Tomorrow: ‘Jerusalem, thou City blest