31 March 2015

Knocklyon Castle … a hidden gem
in the middle of suburban housing

(Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

I live within a stone’s throw of a castle that is almost 600 years old, and yet, because it is in a secluded location, screened by leafy trees many of my neighbours probably give it no more than a passing glance each day, not realising the significance of Knockloyn Castle, and its importance as part of the architectural heritage of South County Dublin.

With its turrets and towers and its castellated appearance, Knocklyon Castle looks like a curious mixture of a baronial tower house and a 19th century house, and I decided to stop and have an inquisitive look at it during a walk last weekend.

But before the castle was ever built, extensive lands in the Tallaght area were granted in the aftermath of the arrival of the Anglo-Normans to Walter de Rideleford. Over a century ago, the local historians FE Ball, WD Hancock and Weston St John, tried to trace the early history of Knocklyon. It is said Walter was granted a charter from Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, better known as ‘Strongbow,’ in which he received the lands of Knocklyon, identified as Clohlun, Cnocklin, or Cnockflyn.

The name Knocklyon probably derives from the Irish meaning the hill (cnoc) of the poll (linn, as in Dubh Linn or Dublin).

Knocklyon probably derives from the Irish meaning the hill of the poll (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Local lore believes the name of Walter de Rideleford survived in Delaford House on Firhouse Road, which was demolished in 1977. However, the house, which was built in the 18th century as a coachman’s inn, was originally named Clandarrig. Alderman Bermingham, who bought the house at the end of the 18th century, changed the name to Springfield. In 1820, Brooke Taylor Otley, Commissioner of Public Works, changed the name to Delaford, celebrating a famous house in England the Ottleys had inherited from the Young family. The land around Delaford was sold for housing and after several fires the house was demolished in 1977.

Meanwhile, the lands of Knocklyon and the surrounding area, between the banks of the River Dodder and the Dublin Mountains, stood through the early Anglo-Norman period in an area known as the Marches, frequently troubled by the cattle raids and skirmishes from the Wicklow Mountains by the O’Toole and O’Byrne clans.

The first castle was probably built almost 600 years ago, around 1429 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

The first castle was probably built near the original mound of Knocklyon around the year 1429, and evidence suggests that it was one of the castles built especially for the defence of the Pale.

In a research paper on Knocklyon Castle, Redmond Shouldice, whose parents live there, traces three stages in the history of the castle. The first phase begins in the decade 1429-1440, and continues until the end of the 16th century.

Redmond Shouldice suggests the years 1429 because during the reign of Henry VI, a statute was passed that year providing £10 subsidies to encourage landowners in the counties of the Pale to build embattled or fortified towers or castles.

The legislation specified that the new castles had to be built within 10 years and they had to be three storeys tall, with minimum internal dimensions of 15 ft by 12 ft, with rounded defensive external corners and a winding stairs in a turret linking each of the three floors.

The original Knocklyon Castle met these demands, and looked like many similar tower houses built throughout Pale in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.

After the Reformation, Patrick Barnwall leased Knocklyon in 1547, along with Templeogue, Old Bawn and other neighbouring properties. Later, Knocklyon Castle was held by John Burnell of Balgriffin. However, he was attainted in 1575 and Knocklyon Castle was granted on 24 October 1577 it was granted to John Bathe of Drumcondra Castle, father of a distinguished Jesuit, William Bathe (1564-1614), who was trained as linguist and musicologist in Oxford.

John Bathe built Drumcondra Castle, on the site of present-day Drumcondra House, now part of All Hallows’ College. His other estates included lands in Glasnein, Clonturk, Ballybough, Balgriffin and Chapelizod. He also held Drimnagh Castle in right of his wife, and he left a bequest for building a hospital for old men in Balgriffin.

John Bathe became the Attorney General of Ireland in 1574, and in May 1579 he became Chancellor of the Exchequer, a position he held until his death in 1586. However, two years before he died, he surrendered the lease of Knocklyon Castle in 1584.

Knocklyon Castle is in a secluded area, screened by an abundance of trees (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

FE Ball suggests that the Nugent family of Westmeath and the Talbot family of Belgard Castle may also have had interests in Knocklyon Castle in the mid-16th century. But in 1585 the lease of the castle was acquired by Captain Anthony Deering. By then, Knocklyon Castle had fallen into ruin, Deering never lived there, and in 1619 later passed to Adam Loftus of Rathfarnham Castle, a grandson of Archbishop Adam Loftus of Dublin, who was granted Rathfarnham Castle in 1590.

In his paper, Redmond Shouldice identifies this acquisition by Adam Loftus as the end of the first phase of the history of Knocklyon Castle. A year later, Loftus leased the castle to Piers Archbold of Kilmacud.

The Archbolds has lived for many generations in Kilmacud. In 1584, Richard Archbold was living at Kilmacud His daughter married James Wolverston of Stillorgan, while his son Piers Archbold, who was granted a pardon by the Crown in 1584, acquired Knocklyon Castle.

Archbold began to rebuild Knocklyon Castle in the style of fortified baronial houses on the Scottish borderlands, including a second turret diagonally opposite the original tower. His rebuilding included an arched entrance that led into the main ground-floor area, with the living areas in the rooms on floors above. Archbold died in 1644 and was buried in Taney Churchyard, Dundrum.

The castle appears to have reverted to the Loftus family of Rathfarnham Castle, and in 1723, Philp Wharton, Duke of Wharton, who had inherited the Loftus estates in Rathfarnham, including Knocklyon, Ballycragh and Old Court, sold them for £62,000 to William Conolly, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons.

However, Conolly never lived at Knocklyon Castle, and built Castletown House in Celbridge, Co Kildare, as his main residence. Rathfarnham Castle, along with Knnocklyon Castle, was recovered eventually by the Loftus family later in the 18th century, and the Ely Triumphal Arch was built on the banks of the River Dodder in Rathfarnham to celebrate this restoration.

In 1780, Knocklyon Castle was leased to the Ledwich family, who were Quakers. According to Redmond Shouldice’s study, their tenancy marks the end of the second phase of the history of the castle.

The Ledwich family added a two-storey extension around the 1780s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

They farmed the lands of Knocklyon extensively, and carried out an extensive Gothic-style ‘modernisation.’ The castle was given a new central staircase, partition walls, a new roof, hall door and windows. In all, six new room were created, and the turrets became annexes, and were given slated conical roofs. They also added a two-storey extension with a kitchen, loft and storeroom, as well as a range of outbuildings, including a cow byre, stable, lofted cart-shed and workshop.

The Magrane or McGrane family bought Knocklyon Castle in 1826. They incorporated the three-storey castellated building, with its towers and turrets, into a new country house built around 1840. The surviving features from that time include square-headed window openings with paired sash windows, and an elaborate door-case with a timber door, all below drip mouldings, and a hipped slate roof with a large rere chimney.

They continued to live in Knocklyon Castle for almost a century and a half. lived there for over 100 years. When the Shouldice family bought it in 1974 they retained the castle, and housing estates were built on its lands.

In 1964, the farm and lands were sold, mainly for housing development and new housing estates. The house and orchard were bought in 1965 and Dermot and Helen O’Clery, and today Knocklyon Castle is the home of their daughter and son-in-law, Ann and Chris Shouldice. In 2000, the castle was listed as a Grade 1 Protected Structure.

Since 1997, I have lived in a house built on the former lands of Knocklyon Castle, and I can see its turrets and towers clearly from my bedroom window each day.

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 (42):
‘Dona nobis pacem’ 2, ‘Beat! beat! drums!’

‘Beat! beat! drums!’ … Bands from the Irish and British army playing at the dedication of the Cross of Sacrifice in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

For my reflections and devotions each day during Lent this year, 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).

Today [31 March 2015] is the Tuesday in Holy Week, and the Year B readings in the Revised Common Lectionary for the Eucharist today are: Isaiah 49: 1-7; Psalm 71: 1-14; I Corinthians 1: 18-31; John 12: 20-36.

For these closing days of Lent, the six days of Holy Week, I am listening to Dona nobis pacem, a cantata for soprano and baritone soli, chorus and orchestra.

The oratorio falls into the six continuous sections or movements, and I am listening to these movements one-by-one in sequence each morning.

I am posting a full recording of the cantata each day, so each movement can be listened to in context, but each morning I am listening to the movements in sequence, listening to one movement after another over these six days of Holy Week.

The six sections or movements are:

1, Agnus Dei

2, Beat! beat! drums! (Whitman)

3, Reconciliation (Whitman)

4, Dirge for Two Veterans (Whitman)

5, The Angel of Death (John Bright)

6, Dona nobis pacem (the Books of Jeremiah, Daniel, Haggai, Micah, and Leviticus, the Psalms, the Book of Isaiah, and Saint Luke’s Gospel)

This morning [31 March 2015] I am listening to the second movement, ‘Beat! beat! drums!’

‘Dona nobis pacem’ with the Eastman-Rochester Chorus, the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra and Michaela Anthony, soprano

2, ‘Beat! beat! drums!’

The second movement is a violent depiction of war and a furious setting of Walt Whitman’s poem ‘Beat! beat! drums!’

The words this movement are based on a poem in Drum Taps written by the American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892). This poem was written after he had served as a volunteer nurse in the American Civil War. He was stunned by the death toll of over 600,000 in that war over the space of four years.

Whitman’s words describe the drums and bugles of war bursting through doors and windows. When war erupts, nothing and nobody is inviolate. Peaceful lives in schools and churches, of brides, farmers and sleepers, of old men and children are in turn swept aside by the warring sounds.

The setting of this movement is for choir, heralded by volleys of brass and rattling percussion. In the use of the bass drum and its key shifts by thirds, Vaughan Williams here recalls Verdi’s Dies irae.

The movement erupts with articulate fear, depicting a violence that destroys peaceful daily lives. In the examples – merchants and scholars disappearing while others pray, weep, and entreat – we sense the numbers of people being swept into war’s unremitting violence once again in the 1930s.

Remembering D-Day at the War Memorial in Penkridge, Staffordshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Beat! beat! drums!

Beat! beat! drums! – Blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows – through the doors – burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation;
Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet – no happiness must he have now with his bride;
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field, or gathering in his grain,
So fierce you whirr and pound, you drums – so shrill you bugles blow.

Beat! beat! drums! – Blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities – over the rumble of wheels in the streets:
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses?
No sleepers must sleep in those beds;
No bargainers bargains by day – [no brokers or speculators] – would they continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
[Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?]
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums – you bugles wilder blow.

Beat! beat! drums! – Blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley – stop for no expostulation;
Mind not the timid – mind not the weeper or prayer;
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man;
Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties,
Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting the hearses,
So strong you thump O terrible drums – so loud you bugles blow.


O God,
who by the passion of your blessed Son made
an instrument of shameful death
to be for us the means of life:
Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ,
that we may gladly suffer pain and loss
for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ,
you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant
and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation.
Give us the mind to follow you
and to proclaim you as Lord and King,
to the glory of God the Father.

Tomorrow: 3, ‘Reconciliation

30 March 2015

Anglican Studies (2014-2015) 11.3: Is there an Anglican
culture? Rose Macaulay and ‘The Towers of Trebizond’

“Take my camel, dear,” said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

MTh Year II TH 8825:

Anglican Studies in an Irish context:

Thursdays: The Hartin Room.

Monday, 30 March 2015, 11.15 a.m.:

Is there an Anglican culture? Rose Macaulay and The Towers of Trebizond


We have been asking this morning whether there is an ‘Anglican Culture’ that acts as a conduit for Anglican history, theology and spirituality, and for the Anglican story.

Earlier, we looked, as an example, at the writings of TS Eliot. As a second example I would like to introduce the writer Rose Macaulay (1881-1958) and her novel, The Towers of Trebizond (1956). It was the last of her novels, and the most successful, and for it she received the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.

The book was described in The New York Times: “Fantasy, farce, high comedy, lively travel material, delicious japes at many aspects of the frenzied modern world, and a succession of illuminating thoughts about love, sex, life, organised churches and religion are all tossed together with enchanting results.”

The famous opening sentence is:

“Take my camel, dear,” said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.

For months after the publication of this novel in 1956, guests at London cocktail parties could be heard quoting those opening lines.

The author:

Dame Rose Macaulay (right) was the author of 35 books – 23 of them novels – and is best remembered for Potterism, a satire of yellow journalism; a biography of Milton; her haunting post-World War II novel, The World My Wilderness; two travel books, They Went to Portugal and Fabled Shore; and her masterpiece, The Towers of Trebizond.

Rose Macaulay was born in Rugby in 1881, the second of seven children in a family of Anglican clerics and eminent academics. She spent her early childhood in Varezze, a small Italian seaside town. In 1894, her family returned to England, and after studying modern history at Somerville College, Oxford, she began a career as a writer, supporting herself as a novelist, journalist, and critic.

After a time of spiritual questioning as an adolescent, she grew into a young woman with a serious approach to religion. After attending a retreat at Saint Alban’s, a High Church parish in Holborn, around 1909, she undertook the disciplined practices associated with Anglo-Catholicism, regularly going to confession at Saint Edward’s House in Westminster, which was the London headquarters of the Cowley Fathers.

During World War I, she worked as a nurse and as a civil servant in the War Office before taking up a position in the British Propaganda Department. There, in 1918, she met Gerald O’Donovan (1871–1942) from Ireland, a former Roman Catholic priest, a novelist, and a married father of three. O’Donovan was 45 and the married father of three; she was 36. They fell in love and eventually began a long affair that lasted until his death in 1942.

By 1922, Macaulay felt that she could no longer make her confession or receive Holy Communion. Her separation from the Church lasted for almost 30 years, during which time she continued to feel “Anglican,” as she put it, but she was “an Anglo-agnostic,” for whom Anglicanism had dwindled down to “a matter of taste and affection . . . rather than of belief.”

This long period of estrangement began to come to an end on 29 August 1950, when out of the blue received a letter from Father Hamilton Johnson. Less than five months later, on 12 January 1951, she went to Saint Edward’s House and made her confession to a priest.

In her 70th year, Rose Macaulay returned to the Church of England as a communicant. She adopted a rule of life, and each morning she attended the early Eucharist at Grosvenor Chapel in South Audley Street, a liberal Anglo-Catholic church with dignified services – high but not extreme, and a church later celebrated in poetry by John Betjeman.

In a letter to Father Hamilton Johnson in 1952, Macaulay spoke of the experience of “being in the Church” as “a wonderful corporate feeling of being carried along, being part of the body ...” The post-1950 Macaulay appears to represent the full, committed life of faith that follows on the stage that Austin Farrer called initial faith. Like Augustine, she knew that the strand of surety is an elusive beach; its shifting sands mean that Christian conversion is never complete and final.

Towards the end of her life, she told her sister Jean that “religious belief is too uncertain and shifting a ground (with me) to speak of lying or truth in connection with it. One believes in patches, and it [“believe”] is a vague, inaccurate word. I could never say ‘Ι believe in God’ in the same sense that I could say ‘Ι believe in the sun & moon & stars’.”

As Augustine makes clear in the Confessions, his conversion did not mean that he had now arrived safely in port; the harbour of the convert is regularly buffeted by storms.

Macaulay was never a simple believer in “mere Christianity.” During the 1930s and 1940s, when CS Lewis, Austin Farrer, Dorothy L. Sayers and others were writing books that were imaginative yet consistently orthodox, Macaulay was a lapsed Anglican, alienated from the church. Even after her return in 1950-1951, she writes The Towers of Trebizond, whose heroine is to some extent her alter ego, and who occupies a place at the border or beyond Christianity.

She was sceptical about much that the Anglican tradition deemed essential, and for a long period described herself as an “Anglo-agnostic,” never certain of her unbelief, or free of spiritual guilt, or unable to appreciate a good sermon. Her brand of Anglicanism was high and broad – liturgically Catholic and intellectually engaged. She admired the Cambridge Platonists of the 17th century and in her personal devotions often used the Great Antiphons.

A mentor to Elizabeth Bowen and a friend of Ivy Compton-Burnett, Rupert Brooke, EM Forster, and Rosamond Lehmann, Macaulay was a well-known figure in London’s literary world and a fabled wit. She was named a Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) shortly before her death in 1958.

The Plot:

The book abounds with historical references, including Saint Paul’s fourth missionary journey, the Fourth Crusade, English Christianity since the Dissolution of the Monasteries, 19th century travellers to the Ottoman Empire, World War I, and the archaeological search for the ruins of Troy.

The scene moves from Turkey when the two senior characters elope to the Soviet Union, and Laurie meets her lover and her semi-estranged mother in Jerusalem.

Gerald O’Donovan suffered serious head injuries in a car accident with Rose Macaulay in the Lake District, and the accident may have inspired the fatal accident on the return journey in The Towers of Trebizond. The final chapters raise multiple issues such as the souls of animals.

Back in London, Laurie is at the wheel of the car in which Vere dies. Her own pride and impetuosity cause her to reject her lover’s caution and to assert her rights against a bus that has crashed a red light. Now, without Vere, Laurie feels that she must live “in two hells, for I have lost God” and lost, too, “the love I want.”

Against an Anglo-Catholic backdrop, the book deals with the attractions of mystical Christianity and the conflict between Christianity and adultery, a problem Macaulay faced in her own life because of her 22-year affair with Gerald O’Donovan.

The Towers of Trebizond is part satire, part travel book, part comedy, part tragedy ... and at all times a spiritual reflection on the pilgrimage of life. It starts off as a comic novel, and there is scarcely a line in the first third of the book that fails to provoke laughter or, at the least, a pleasurable sense that someone is tickling your brain.

The characters:

The book is largely autobiographical. It follows the adventures of a group of people travelling from Istanbul – or Constantinople, as Father Chantry-Pigg insists on calling it, – to Trebizond. In this book, Trebizond is not simply the old name for Trabzon, the former Byzantine port on the shores of the Black Sea in north-eastern Turkey. Trebizond is the “fabled city” that the heroine Laurie feels cut off from; Trebizond can be read as symbolising the Christian faith, or the church; Trebizond could be Bunyan’s ‘Celestial City,’ Augustine’s ‘City of God,’ or ultimate, unattainable Truth.

● Laurie, the narrator, is a woman in her mid-30s. Like Macaulay, she too has a long-term love affair with a married man.

● Dorothea ffoulkes-Corbett is the otherwise the eccentric Aunt Dot. Barbara Reynolds suggests she is based on Rose Macaulay’s friend, Dorothy L Sayers. A hale, elderly woman, Aunt Dot justifies her love of world travel by claiming it to be in the service of Anglican mission work and a project to emancipate the women of Turkey by converting them to Anglicanism and popularising the bathing hat.

● Father Hugh Chantry-Pigg, Aunt Dot’s friend, is an Anglo-Catholic priest who keeps his collection of sacred relics in his pockets, and who is “better at condemning than at loving.” Barbara Reynolds has suggested this character has elements of Father Patrick McLaughlin (1909-1988), the Dublin-born Father Gilbert Shaw (1886-1967), Vicar of Saint Anne’s, Soho, and Father Gerard Irvine.

● Dr Halide Tanpinar is a Turkish feminist doctor. She had once converted from Islam to Anglicanism, and she now acts as a foil to these main characters.

● Xenophon is a Greek-speaking, over-indulged young man.

● Aunt Dot’s addled camel was a present to her from a rich Bedouin tycoon. The anxieties over the half-crazed camel’s love-life are in contrast to the subsequent nurture of an ape named Suliman in advanced Anglo-Catholic ritualism.

● Vere, Laurie’s lover, is always in the background although not in the touring party.

On the way, they also meet magicians, Turkish policemen, juvenile British travel writers, and a BBC broadcasting team following Billy Graham on tour.

“I wonder who else is rambling about Turkey this spring,” wonders Aunt Dot at one point. “Seventh-Day Adventists, Billy Grahamites, writers, diggers, photographers, spies, us, and now the BBC.” As Compton Mackenzie writes, at times it feels as if Macaulay has blended love and lunacy to produce a kind of Alice Through the Looking Glass of modern life, or, as another reviewer says, has re-staged the Mad-Hatter’s tea party and has taken it on the road.

The Turkish woman doctor says in the book of Aunt Dot, “She is a woman of dreams. Mad dreams, dreams of crazy, impossible things. And they aren’t all of conversion to the Church, oh no. Nor all of the liberation of women, oh no. Her eyes are on far mountains, always some far peak where she will go. She looks so firm and practical, that nice face, so fair and plump and shrewd, but look in her eyes, you will sometimes catch a strange gleam.”

Reading the book:

The first half of The Towers of Trebizond reads as a satirical picaresque that lampoons Anglican narrowness, and the back-biting competition within English literary society. Set in what was once called “the Levant,” the book crawls with literary tourists, each determined to get their travel book out first. Dot is writing one, too, with Laurie providing the illustrations.

Aunt Dot is both adventurous and provincial. When Father Chantry-Pigg says one ought not to go to Russia because it would mean condoning a government that persecutes Christians, Aunt Dot replies: “If one started not condoning governments, one would have to give up travel altogether, and even remaining in Britain would be pretty difficult.”

When Aunt Dot and Father Chantry-Pigg slip over the border into the Soviet Union, leaving Laurie alone, the novel undergoes a subtle but complete tonal shift.

In the last half of the book, as Laurie wanders through Turkey on her camel, running into acquaintances and making do as best she can on the little money she has, the novel becomes a serious, though never heavy-handed, study of a crisis of faith, although Laurie knows herself too well to be thrown into a tizzy over her inability to give herself over to a faith, any faith:

“Nothing in the world, for instance, could be as true as some Anglicans and Calvinists and Moslems think their Churches are, having the faith once for all delivered to the saints. I suppose this must be comfortable and reassuring. But most of us know that nothing is as true as all that, and that no faith can be delivered once for all without change, for new things are being discovered all the time, and old things dropped, like the whole Bible being true, and we have to grope our way through a mist that keeps being lit by shafts of light, so that exploration tends to be patchy, and we can never sit back and say, we have the Truth, this is it, for discovering the truth, if it is ever discovered, means a long journey through a difficult jungle, with clearings every now and then, and paths that have to be hacked out as one walks, and dark lanterns swinging from the trees, and these lanterns are the light that has lighted every man, which can only come through the dark lanterns of our minds.”

Here we find a mature acceptance of uncertainty and confusion as part of our natural condition.

Yet neither Macaulay – who was reconciled with Anglicanism shortly after the book was published and before her death – nor her fictional counterpart can be fully content with that. Reassurance that hangs just out of reach is always a tempting thing, even when you know that the only way to accept it is to short-change your intellect and your own messy experience. Her lover accepts what he calls her “church obsession ... So long as you don’t let it interfere with our lives.”

Macaulay never denies the appeal of belief, the longing for reassurance, but like any adult, she never denies that life is a trade-off either.

While Father Chantry-Pigg is in most respects not a model of ministry to be closely emulated, sometimes his perceptions are accurate. One Sunday morning, he celebrates the Eucharist on the deck of their ship as they are approaching Trebizond. Afterwards, he finds Laurie alone and forces her to confront the seriousness of the dilemma in which she is caught.

‘Later in the morning, when I was on deck looking through glasses at the first sight of Trebizond, Father Chantry-Pigg came and stood by me and said, “How much longer are you going on like this, shutting the door against God?”

This question always disturbed me; I sometimes asked it of myself, but I did not know the answer. Perhaps it would have to be for always, because I was so deeply committed to something else that I could not break away.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“It’s your business to know. There is no question. You must decide at once. Do you mean to drag on for years more in deliberate sin, refusing grace, denying the Holy Spirit? And when it ends, what then? It will end; such things always end. What then? Shall you come back, when it is taken out of your hands and it will cost you nothing? When you will have nothing to offer to God but a burnt out fire and a fag end? Oh, he’ll take it, he’ll take anything we offer. It is you who will be impoverished for ever by so poor a gift. Offer now what will cost you a great deal, and you’ll be enriched beyond anything you can imagine. How do you know how much of life you still have? It may be many years, it may be a few weeks. You may leave this world without grace, go on into the next stage in the chains you won’t break now. Do you ever think of that, or have you put yourself beyond caring?

Not quite, never quite. I had tried, but never quite. From time to time I knew what I had lost. But nearly all the time, God was a bad second, enough to hurt but not to cure, to hide from but not to seek, and I knew that when I died I should hear him saying, “Go away, I never knew you,” and that would be the end of it all, the end of everything, and after that I never should know him, though then to know him would be what I should want more than anything, and not to know him would be hell. I sometimes felt this even now, but not often enough to do what would break my life to bits. Now I was vexed that Father Chantry-Pigg had brought it up and flung me into this turmoil. Hearing Mass was bad enough, hearing it and not taking part in it, seeing it and not approaching it, being offered it and shutting the door on it, and in England I seldom went.

I couldn’t answer Father Chantry-Pigg, there was nothing I could say except “I don’t know”. He looked at me sternly and said, “I hope, I pray, that you will know before it is too late. The door won’t be open for ever. Refuse it long enough, and you will become incapable of going through it. You will, little by little, stop believing. Even God can’t force the soul grown blind and deaf and paralysed to see and hear and move. I beg you, in this Whitsuntide, to obey the Holy Spirit of God. That is all I have to say.’

Possessing a deeply ambivalent attitude toward the Church, Laurie is better at loving than at praying: her affair with a married man has kept her away from the Church of England for ten years. “From time to time,” she says, “I knew what I had lost. But nearly all the time, God was a bad second, enough to hurt but not to cure, to hide from but not to seek.” She acknowledges the other pole of her ambivalence toward Christianity when she remarks that, although “the Church met its Waterloo . . . when I took up with adultery,” Anglicanism was still “in the system,” and, once in, “I think one cannot get it out.”

In a conversation in Jerusalem with a sceptical acquaintance named David, Laurie searches for an answer. After telling him that she has not got the answers and that he should take his questions to the bishop, she suggests that he read “some of the liturgies and missals.” Like a good Anglican, she reaches into liturgy for her answer.

Her reply comes by way of the Great Antiphons, recited during the seven days leading to the Christmas Vigil. Laurie quotes for David the Advent hymns to the divine wisdom (O Sapientia) and to the divine light (O Oriens, O Dawn of the East).

What holds Laurie back from a fully committed Christian faith is, in large measure, her attachment to her lover, Vere, who brings her great joy and contentment.

Laurie’s Augustine-echoing resistance to being delivered just yet is only one of the reasons behind her disinclination to rejoin the Church. There are also the faults of Christian institutions down the centuries. She observes how the Church “grew so far, almost at once, from anything which can have been intended.” It “became ... blood-stained and persecuting and cruel and war-like and made small and trivial things so important.”

Laurie’s objections are intellectual as well as moral. The church, she says, began “with a magnificent idea,” but that idea had “to be worked out by human beings who do not understand much of it but interpret it in their own way and think they are guided by God, whom they have not yet grasped.” She questions the historicity of the gospel accounts: “I wonder what was really said, how far the evangelists got it right, and how much they left out, writing it down long after.” She is aware that “some of the things they forgot and left out might have been very important, and some of the things they put in they perhaps got wrong, for some sound unlikely for [Jesus] to have said.”

She sees that “no Church can have more than a very little of the truth,” and therefore she finds it impossible “to believe, as some people do, that one’s Church has all the truth and no errors, for how could this possibly be?”

The book ends with Laurie in what she describes as a dual hell, though there is more acceptance than torment in her description. The revelations in The Towers of Trebizond are all of the earthly variety, and Macaulay makes that seem, if not everything, then enough for any reasonable person.

The impact of the book

Constance Babington-Smith writes that “many Anglicans, and also many would-be believers” responded to The Towers of Trebizond in a manner that Macaulay found profoundly moving. “Some weeks after the book was out she wrote ... that she was beginning to feel ‘almost like a priest,’ for so many people were telling her how much she had helped them in their religion.”

Macaulay delighted in pointing out that The Towers of Trebizond helped to convince many readers to turn toward the Church and what it stands for. Her novel had, she said, decided a young woman at a crucial moment in her life for the right course, and clergy read parts of it to ordinands besieged by doubt, without plunging them into deeper anguish. David Hein says many clergy and laity found their faith reinvigorated by reading The Towers of Trebizond.

The paradox of its popular reception by Christians and would-be believers is part of the mystery of The Towers of Trebizond. The book presents dilemmas and reveals their attractions, but it declines to provide easy answers and solutions.

The capacity of Anglicanism to hold together contradictions increased Macaulay’s appreciation of Anglicanism. She wrote The Towers of Trebizond after her return to the Church of England, but does not mark out for her readers the steps on the journey of faith they only they could take for themselves. She said it was “meant to be about the struggle of good and evil, its eternal importance, and the power of the Christian Church over the soul, to torment and convert.”

The ending is gratifyingly indeterminate, reassuring in its refusals. What makes the author of this book worthy of consideration as a spiritual mentor for 21st century seekers has much to do with her willingness to acknowledge difficulties.

In the days following Vere’s death, Laurie, stricken with grief and remorse, rejects what he rejected, giving up what he mockingly called her “church obsession.” She turns her back on the Church and all that it stands for, “knowing that God is leaving us alone for ever; we have lost God and gained hell.”

At the end of this novel, there is still much that restrains Laurie from moving toward the shimmering towers of Trebizond, and it is impossible to say in which direction she will eventually turn. As one literary scholar wrote: “It is the highest of ironies that a novel which ends on such a note of – perhaps even unchristian? – despair should be hailed as one of the twentieth century’s most luminous Christian novels.”

The Towers of Trebizond ends in silence and in waiting. It is an honest reckoning with the cognitive obstructions of Christian faith, and it throws out a line – albeit one that in the darkness might be hard to recognise – to all who struggle with doubt.

Additional reading:

Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond (London: Collins, 1956).

Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond (London: Fontana, 1962, 3rd impression, February 1970), the edition I have used while preparing these notes.

Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond (New York: New York Review Books, 2003).

Constance Babington-Smith, Rose Macaulay (London: Collins, 1972). Alice Crawford, Paradise Pursued: The Novels of Rose Macaulay (Madison, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1995).

David Hein, ‘Faith and Doubt in Rose Macaulay’s The Towers of Trebizond,’ Anglican Theological Review, Winter 2006.

David Hein (ed), Readings in Anglican Spirituality (Cincinnati, Ohio: Forward Movement Publications, 1991).

Richard H Schmidt, Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2002).

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This essay is an extended version of notes prepared for a lecture on the MTh Year II course, TH8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context, on Monday 30 March 2015.

Anglican Studies (2014-2015) 11.2: Is there
an Anglican culture? The poetry of TS Eliot

‘April is the cruellest month’ … words that have come to mind constantly in April four years ago during the search for two fishermen off the shore of Skerries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

MTh Year II

TH 8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context:

Thursdays: The Hartin Room.

Monday, 30 March 2015, 10 a.m.:

Is there an Anglican culture? The poetry of TS Eliot;

10.3: Is there an Anglican culture? Rose Macaulay and The Towers of Trebizond

10.2: Is there an Anglican culture? The poetry of TS Eliot


April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

These are the opening words of TS Eliot’s poem, The Waste Land (1922), which is regarded a one of the most important poems of the 20th century.

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

These words came to mind constantly for me in April four years ago [2011] as I thought again and again of the people in Skerries who were searching desperately for two missing fishermen:

April is the cruellest month … I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

Throughout the poem we find allusions to The Book of Common Prayer, and Old Testament allusions, where the narrator finds himself in a summer drought that has transformed the land into a desert, who is referred to as the “Son of Man,” with references to Ezekiel, and to the Gospels.

This year [2015] marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of the American-born English poet, playwright and literary critic, Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965). He was, perhaps the most important poet in the English language in the 20th century. And he is one of the greatest examples of how Anglican spirituality, Anglican liturgy, Anglican memory and Anglican history have been conveyed through the generations through the arts, particularly through poetry, drama and fiction.

The calendars of Anglican churches throughout the world recalls the saintly memory of some of the great creative figures in Anglicanism over the generations.

For example, the calendar in Common Worship commemorates the poets George Herbert (27 February), Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy “Woodbine Willie” (8 March), John Donne (31 March), Christina Rossetti (27 April) and John Keble (14 July), and writers like Julian of Norwich (8 May), Evelyn Underhill (15 June), John Bunyan (30 August) and Samuel Johnson (13 December).

To that list we might, perhaps, add writers such as CS Lewis and Dorothy Sayers. Or if we were to think of writers who been conduits of Anglican spirituality and Anglican thinking we might think of Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), author of the Chronicles of Barchester. Today, that tradition of Anglican writers who think theologically is continued by writers like Susan Howatch and Catherine Fox.

Is there an ‘Anglican culture’?

A mural by John Myatt on a wall in Bird Street, Lichfield commemorating Samuel Johnson (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Anglican culture has been expressed in architecture, poetry, literature, novels, and music.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) is often remembered as the compiler of his great Dictionary, but forgotten as a spiritual writer.

In his last prayer, on 5 December 1784, before receiving Holy Communion and eight days before he died, Samuel Johnson prayed:

Almighty and most merciful Father, I am now, as to human eyes it seems, about to commemorate, for the last time, the death of thy Son Jesus Christ our Saviour and Redeemer. Grant, O Lord, that my whole hope and confidence may be in his merits, and his mercy; enforce an accept my imperfect repentance; make this commemoration available to the confirmation of my faith, the establishment of my hope, and the enlargement of my charity; and make the death of thy Son Jesus Christ effectual to my redemption. Have mercy on me, and pardon the multitude of my offences. Bless my friends; have mercy upon all men. Support me, by the grace of thy Holy Spirit, in the days of weakness, and at the hour of death; and receive me, at my death, to everlasting happiness, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Samuel Johnson’s statue in the Market Square, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

This morning, as we conclude this module in Anglicanism, I want to suggest that there is an “Anglican culture” that conveys and carries through the generations an Anglican approach to spirituality and theology. For those who are entering Anglican ordained ministry but who are not cradle Anglicans, I believe it is important to be sensitive to this, to grasp this but even more importantly to be enriched by this.

I want to look at this through the poetry and the writing of TS Eliot, one of the greatest poets of the last century, and later – if we have time – to look at it through the eyes of one novelist and one novel in particular, Rose Macaulay (1881-1958) and her final novel and masterpiece, The Towers of Trebizond (1956)

TS Eliot as an Anglican poet

The poem by TS Eliot (right) that made his name as a poet, The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock (1915), is regarded as a masterpiece of the modernist movement. It was followed by some of the best-known poems in English, including The Waste Land (1922), The Hollow Men (1925), Ash Wednesday (1930), and the four poems in Four Quartets (1943).

Of course, many of us may know him since our school days or childhood for Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939), a collection of light verse that inspired Cats (1981), the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Eliot also wrote several plays, including Murder in the Cathedral (1935) and The Cocktail Party (1949), and he received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948.

Although he was born in the US, he became a British citizen in 1927 at the age of 39, a few months after his conversion to Anglicanism. When he renounced his US citizenship, he said: “My mind may be American but my heart is British.”

Eliot was born in St Louis, Missouri, the youngest child in a prominent Unitarian and academic family; his mother was a poet and social worker.

He began to write poetry at the age of 14 under the influence of Edward Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, but he destroyed those early poems, and his oldest surviving poem dates from January 1905. He studied philosophy at Harvard (1906-1909), where the Harvard Advocate published some of his poems.

After working as a philosophy assistant at Harvard (1909-1910), Eliot moved to Paris, where he studied philosophy at the Sorbonne (1910–1911), before returning to Harvard (1911-1914) to study Indian philosophy and Sanskrit. He then moved to Merton College, Oxford, but left after a year, commenting: “Oxford is very pretty, but I don’t like to be dead.”

By 1916, he had completed a PhD dissertation for Harvard on Knowledge and Experience in the Philosophy of FH Bradley, but he never returned for his viva voce exam.

Meanwhile, in 1915 he had been introduced to Vivienne Haigh-Wood, and they married within weeks. Their marriage was a catalyst in his writing The Waste Land, and was the subject of the movie Tom and Viv (1994), which I introduced here last month [26 February 2015] as part of the Movies and Lent series.

24 Russell Square, where TS Eliot worked for Faber and Faber, is now part of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

He took up several teaching posts, including teaching at Highgate School, where his pupils included John Betjeman, and lecturing at Birkbeck College, London. By 1917, he was working at Lloyds Bank, and on a visit to Paris in 1920 he met James Joyce. But in 1925, Eliot joined the publishers Faber and Gwyer, later Faber and Faber, where he spent the rest of his career, eventually becoming a director.

On 29 June 1927, Eliot was baptised and confirmed an Anglican; a few months later he would become a British citizen. He became a churchwarden at Saint Stephen’s Church, Gloucester Road, London, and specifically identified with the Anglo-Catholic expression of Anglicanism, describing himself a “classicist in literature, royalist in politics, and Anglo-Catholic in religion.” Later, he would say his religious views combined “a Catholic cast of mind, a Calvinist heritage, and a Puritanical temperament.”

When he was offered the Charles Eliot Norton Professorship at Harvard (1932-1933), he left his wife Vivienne in England. On his return, he filed for divorce, and she spent the rest of her life in a psychiatric hospital until her death in 1947.

Eliot first published his poems in periodicals, small books or pamphlets, and then collected them in books. His first collection was Prufrock and Other Observations (1917). In 1920, he published more poems in Ara Vos Prec (London) and Poems: 1920 (New York).

In 1925, he collected The Waste Land and the poems in Prufrock and Poems into one volume and added The Hollow Men in Poems: 1909-1925.

The Hollow Men was written when Eliot was going through difficult times in his work and with his first wife’s health. Writing about his earlier poem, The Waste Land (1922), Eliot concluded that “some forms of illness are extremely favourable to religious illumination.” This sets the background for the circumstances surrounding The Hollow Men, which was written when Eliot was going through a wilderness experience.

From then on, Eliot updated this work as Collected Poems. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939) is a collection of light verse. Poems Written in Early Youth, posthumously published in 1967, is mainly poems published in The Harvard Advocate (1907-1910). Inventions of the March Hare: Poems 1909-1917 (1997) includes works he never intended to publish but that were published posthumously.

Although the main character in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915) seems to be middle-aged, Eliot wrote most of the poem when he was only 22. It is well known for its opening lines, comparing the evening sky to “a patient etherised upon a table” – an image that was considered shocking and offensive. The poem follows the conscious experience of Prufrock, lamenting his physical and intellectual inertia, the lost opportunities in his life and his lack of spiritual progress.

In 1922, the same year as James Joyce published Ulysses, Eliot published The Waste Land at a time of personal difficulty: his marriage was failing, and both he and Vivienne were suffering from nervous disorders. The poem slips between satire and prophecy, and is marked by abrupt changes of speaker, location and time. Yet it is a touchstone of modern literature. Among its well-known phrases are: “April is the cruellest month,” “I will show you fear in a handful of dust,” and the Sanskrit mantra that ends the poem: “Shantih, shantih, shantih.”

While earlier commentators tended to read ‘The Waste Land’ as a secular commentary on life in London in the inter-war years, more recent studies see in this poem a description of Eliot’s pilgrimage to faith from the Unitarianism of his childhood and youth, through his readings in Hinduism to his preparation for his eventual Baptism in 1927 and his subsequent, life-lasting Anglo-Catholicism.

In a recent study, A. Lee Fjordbotten, (‘Liturgical influences of Anglo-Catholicism on ‘The Waste Land’ and other works by TS Eliot,’ Fordham University, 1999), says ‘The Waste Land’ reveals a spiritually searching and developing Eliot who is anticipating his formal conversion in 1927. He points out that the structure of the poem is similar to the traditional process of conversion, especially as seen in the season of Lent.

In this way, the poem becomes the chronicle of Eliot’s own spiritual journey to conversion, and he analyses the five sections of ‘The Waste Land’ liturgically, in relation to the five Sundays of Lent and their respective themes, so that Part V, ‘What the Thunder says,’ relates to the Fifth Sunday in Lent and last week.

In her more recent study of ‘The Waste Land,’ ‘The Prefiguration of TS Eliot’s conversion in ‘The Waste Land’,’ in the Saint Austin Review (January/February 2012, pp 19-20), Paula L. Gallagher, says the beginning of Eliot’s conversion is prefigured in this poem and begins with his recognition of the emptiness of modernity.

She argues that the poem – far from being just the apogee of modernist despair – significantly prefigures his conversion to Anglo-Catholicism: “Eliot’s personal journey through the Waste Land – from the rejection of modernity, to the search for Christ, to the arrival of rain – contains imagery, allusions and ideas that prefigure that conversion to Anglo-Catholicism.”

Eliot’s major poem of the late 1920s, The Hollow Men (1925), was written in the context of post-war Europe. It is deeply indebted to Dante and wrestles with the difficulty of hope and religious conversion, and with Eliot’s failed marriage. It concludes with some of Eliot’s best-known lines:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Not long before he reached the age of 40, Eliot made a decision that influenced his poetry and drama for the rest of his life. On the Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, 27 June 1927, he was baptised and so began a life-long commitment to Anglo-Catholicism. Eliot was probably converted through reading the prayers and sermons of Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626), Bishop of Winchester.

The tomb of Lancelot Andrewes in Southwark Cathedral ... “his prayers and sermons were critical in TS Eliot’s conversion to Anglicanism and had an abiding influence on his writings (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In his essay, For Lancelot Andrewes: an Essay on Style and Order (1928), published the following year, Eliot argued that Andrewes’s sermons “rank with the finest English prose of their time, of any time.” Eliot spoke of his indebtedness to the bishop’s writings: he is “the first great preacher of the English Catholic Church,” he had “the voice of a man who had a formed visible church behind him, who spoke with the old authority and the new culture.”

For Eliot, “The intellectual achievement and the prose style of Hooker and Andrewes came to complete the structure of the English Church as the philosophy of the thirteenth century crowns the Catholic Church … the achievement of Hooker and Andrewes was to make the English Church more worthy of intellectual assent. No religion can survive the judgment of history unless the best minds of its time have collaborated in its construction; if the Church of Elizabeth is worthy of the age of Shakespeare and Jonson, that is because of the work of Hooker and Andrewes.

“The writings of both Hooker and Andrewes illustrate that determination to stick to essentials, that awareness of the needs of the time, the desire for clarity and precision on matters of importance, and the indifference to matters indifferent, which was the general policy of Elizabeth … Andrewes is the first great preacher of the English Catholic Church.”

On the other hand, he was deeply disparaging when it came to John Donne:

“About Donne there hangs the shadow of the impure motive; and impure motives lend their aid to a facile success. He is a little of the religious spellbinder, the Reverend Billy Sunday of his time, the flesh-creeper, the sorcerer of emotional orgy. We emphasize this aspect to the point of the grotesque. Donne had a trained mind; but without belittling the intensity or the profundity of his experience, we can suggest that this experience was not perfectly controlled, and that he lacked spiritual discipline.”

Eliot was influenced too by the monastic life of Nicholas Ferrar’s community at Little Gidding, and admired the works of Richard Hooker, George Herbert and Jeremy Taylor – and the churches of Christopher Wren.

Eliot’s writings after his baptism reflect how much an impression Andrewes’s sermons had made on him. His sermons on the Nativity were a special favourite of Eliot. His poem, Journey of the Magi (1927), the first of the Ariel Poems and written shortly after his baptism, begins with a direct quote from Andrewes’s sermon on the Epiphany at Christmas 1622. In that sermon, “Of the wise men come from the East,” Andrewes opens with the words:

“It was no summer progress. A cold coming they had of it at this time of the year, just the worst time of the year to take a journey, and specially a long journey in. The ways deep, the weather sharp, the days short, the sun farthest off, in solstitio brumali, ‘the very dead of winter’.”

Eliot opens his Journey of the Magi with similar words:

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.

There are other references to Andrewes’s sermons in his poems. One phrase from Andrewes that figures in Eliot’s poetry – “Word without a word” – occurs three times in Andrewes’s Nativity Sermons in which he refers to “the eternal Word” as having always existed and the co-creator of the universe but now as a babe not “able to speak a word.”

Ash Wednesday marked TS Eliot’s conversion to Anglicanism

Ash Wednesday (1930) was his first long poem after his conversion to Anglicanism in 1927, and has been described as Eliot’s conversion poem. It deals with the struggle that arises when one who has lacked faith acquires it, and with the aspiration to move from a spiritual barrenness to the hope for human salvation.

In Ash Wednesday, Eliot took that “flashing phrase” from Andrewes, “Word without a word,” to highlight that the world still lives in darkness as the Word is still unheard:

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

In his sermons, Andrewes was critical of contemporaries who followed their own spirit rather than the Holy Spirit. He believed parish church is where the local community assembles to offer up their prayers and praises. Eliot lamented also that church community life no longer existed as families spent Sundays as a day off from religion, and so bells were no longer necessary in the city to summon people to church, as he expressed it in Choruses from ‘The Rock’ (1934):

That the country now is only fit for picnics,
And the Church does not seem to be wanted
In country or in suburb.

The Four Quartets ... regarded by TS Eliot as his masterpiece, led to him receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature

Eliot regarded the Four Quartets as his masterpiece. This is the work that led to his receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature. This is not one poem but four long poems, each published separately: Burnt Norton (1936), East Coker (1940), The Dry Salvages (1941) and Little Gidding (1942).

Each poem has five sections, each begins with a meditation or reflection on the place that gives the poem its title, and each meditates on the nature of time in a theological, historical or physical respect and its relation to the human condition. In addition, each poem is associated with one of the four classical elements, air, earth, water or fire.

Burnt Norton asks what it means to consider things that might have been:

Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.

A terrace of almshouses in East Coker ... the village that inspired TS Eliot was his ancestral home and his ashes are buried at the parish church ... “In my beginning is my end”

East Coker, the second of his Four Quartets, is set in late November and ends: “In my end is my beginning.”

But it opens:

In my beginning is my end. In succession
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,
Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth
Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,
Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.
Houses live and die: there is a time for building
And a time for living and for generation …

In my beginning is my end. Now the light falls
Across the open field, leaving the deep lane …

Wait for the early owl.

‘Now the light falls ... I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope.’ Dusk turns to darkness at Minister Pool in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Out of darkness, Eliot offers a solution in East Coker:

Now the light fails … I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope.

East Coker ... TS Eliot’s ancestral village in Somerset (Photograph: The Guardian)

The Dry Salvages treats the element of water, drawing on images of river and sea. It strives to contain opposites:

... the past and future
Are conquered, and reconciled.

Julian of Norwich ... All shall be well and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well

Little Gidding treats the element of fire, drawing on Eliot’s experiences as an air raid warden during the Blitz in London. This is the most anthologised of the Four Quartets. In Little Gidding, the Four Quartets end with the well-known affirmation by Julian of Norwich:

And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

‘To make an end is to make a beginning’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In Little Gidding, Eliot exposes the expression of the Catholic faith in Andrewes’s time. There are paradoxical lines that crystallise the significance of the Incarnation:

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

… A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments.

The community at Little Gidding maintained 24 hours of prayer, including long hours of night vigils. Little Gidding was a place “where prayer has been valid” and where “prayer is more/than an order of words”:

… You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.

The Four Quartets must be understood within the framework of Christian thinking, tradition, and history. Eliot draws upon the theology, art, symbolism and language of such figures as Dante, and mystics like Saint John of the Cross and Julian of Norwich. The “deeper communion” sought in East Coker, the “hints and whispers of children, the sickness that must grow worse in order to find healing,” and the exploration that inevitably leads us home all point to the pilgrim’s path along the road of sanctification.

Eliot directed much of his creative energies after Ash Wednesday to writing plays. A pageant play, The Rock (1934) was first performed to raise funds for churches in the Diocese of London.

A former Dean of Canterbury, Bishop George Bell (1883-1958) of Chichester, asked Eliot to write his best-known play, Murder in the Cathedral (1935) for the Canterbury Festival in 1935. The play tells the story of the murder and martyrdom of Saint Thomas a Becket.

The Cocktail Party (1949) was Eliot’s modernising of Alcestis by Euripides. Professor Guy Martin once offered a course at Harvard Divinity School on the writer as theologian, focussing on the poetry, prose and the plays of TS Eliot, examining the way he contributed to the relationship between religion and literature. As part of their final examination, the members of the class produced The Cocktail Party.

Eliot was a member of a group that produced the report Catholicity (1947) as a contribution to the process that resulted in the Church of England’s Report on Doctrine (1948).

In 1958, Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher of Canterbury appointed Eliot to a commission that produced The Revised Psalter (1963). Another member of the commission was CS Lewis, who had once been a harsh critic of Eliot. In 1935, Lewis wrote to a mutual friend that he considered Eliot’s work to be “a very great evil.” However, during their time on that commission their antagonism turned to true friendship.

In 1957, at the age of 68, Eliot secretly married his second wife, Esmé Valerie Fletcher, then aged 32, who had been his secretary at Faber and Faber for almost eight years.

The wall plaque in Saint Michael’s Church, East Coker, Somerset, commemorating TS Eliot (Photograph: John Snelling)

Eliot died in London on 4 January 1965. His ashes were taken to Saint Michael’s Church in East Coker, the Somerset village from which his ancestors had emigrated to New England in the 17th century. A wall plaque in the church commemorates him with a quotation from his poem East Coker:

In my beginning is my end. In my end is my beginning.

He is also commemorated in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, where a stone quotes from Little Gidding:

the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond
the language of the living.


11.3: Is there an Anglican culture? Rose Macaulay and The Towers of Trebizond

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This essay is an extended version of notes prepared for a lecture on the MTh Year II course, TH 8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context, on Monday 30 March 2015.

Through Lent with Vaughan Williams (41):
‘Dona nobis pacem’ 1, ‘Agnus Dei’

Agnus Dei ... the choir screen in Christ Church Cathedral ... at the time it was a controversial element in the restoration work of George Edmund Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

For my reflections and devotions each day during Lent this year, 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).

Today [30 March 2015] is the Monday in Holy Week. The appointed readings in the Revised Common Lectionary for the Eucharist today are: Isaiah 42: 1-9; Psalm 36: 5-11; Hebrews 9: 11-15; and John 12: 1-11.

For these closing days of Lent, the six days of Holy Week, I am listening to Dona nobis pacem, a cantata for soprano and baritone soli, chorus and orchestra.

The oratorio falls into the six continuous sections or movements, and I am listening to these movements one-by-one in sequence each morning.

I am posting a full recording of the cantata each day, so each movement can be listened to in context, but each morning I am listening to the movements in sequence, listening to one movement after another over these six days of Holy Week.

Although Vaughan Williams is often best-remembered for collecting folk songs that he adapted as hymn tunes, he also wrote many works for chorus and orchestra, selecting and setting great texts for some of his finest works.

The oratorio Dona nobis pacem dates from the early 1930s and was written as a warning against war as another World War seemed to be looming on the horizons. The texts come from the Mass, the poet Walt Whitman, the Bible, and the politician and anti-war campaigner John Bright.

The work takes its name from the concluding phrase in the invocation to the Lamb of God sung or recited during the fraction at the Eucharist:

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem

Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, grant us peace

The opening and closing movements take their names from the opening and closing words of this liturgical prayer, so Vaughan Williams, in this inter-war plea for peace, opens and closes this oratorio with the Paschal invocation of Christ, pleading for the peace that he offers to a broken world.

One hundred years ago, the first German Zeppelin air raids hit England in January 1915. Vaughan Williams, who was then 42, enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps and was assigned to ambulance duties, working with the wounded on the front lines in Flanders.

After World War I, Vaughan Williams held to his belief that music was a means to preserve civilisation, even amid war. He formed a military chorus and went on to dedicate his life to teaching others to make music. He promoted a “United States of the World” where “those will serve that universal state best who bring into the common fund something that they and they only can bring.”

His oratorio Sancta Civitas, ‘The Holy City’ (1923-1925) was filled with vision, sadness, and suffering, and the music was ahead of its time in its use of dissonance. His cantata Dona Nobis Pacem has its roots in that earlier oratorio, expressing his anguish over the worsening political situation in Europe that would lead again to war.

When Vaughan Williams was invited to provide a work for the centenary of the Huddersfield Choral Society in October 1936, he remembered an unpublished setting he had composed for Walt Whitman’s ‘Dirge for Two Veterans,’ a poem in Whitman’s collection Drum Taps (1865), written at the end of the American Civil War.

He now resurrected this composition as the centrepiece of his new work, preceding it with two further poems by Whitman in Drum Taps, ‘Beat! beat! drums!’ and ‘Reconciliation.’

He prefaces this group of Whitman poems with a setting of the liturgical text, Agnus Dei, and followed it with a passage from a speech given in Parliament by John Bright in 1855 during the Crimean War: “The Angel of Death has been abroad throughout the land; you may almost hear the beating of his wings …” Indeed, Vaughan Williams claimed to be the only composer ever to have set a passage from the proceedings of the House of Commons.

In the last two sections, he uses a series of passages drawn from the Old Testament which together express optimism for future peace.

The text is rounded off with a verse from Saint Luke’s Gospel, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men’ (Luke 2: 14) and a final repetition of the plea Dona nobis pacem, ‘Grant us peace.’

The whole work is welded together by his sense of urgency. As Vaughan Williams’s biographer, Simon Heffer, said his main inspiration for Dona Nobis Pacem “is drawn not from the soil of England, but from the whole world going mad around him.”

Dona nobis pacem was first performed in Huddersfield on 2 October 1936, with the Huddersfield Choral Society and the Hallé Orchestra conducted by Albert Coates, and was performed at countless festivals and concerts in the anxious years leading up to World War II.

Dona Nobis Pacem also anticipates by 25 years Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, with its dramatic settings of Latin liturgical texts and poetry and its emphasis on reconciliation.

Given its connections with both World Wars, this cantata has been taken up again recently by choral societies throughout Britain for the commemorations of World War I.

The work is scored for chorus and large orchestra, with soprano and baritone soloists. Vaughan Williams’s perspective is no longer bound to the geography of England. His empathy now enfolds a world faced with another war. In setting biblical and poetic texts to music, he pays a subtle tribute to Verdi’s Requiem, which he admired – for example, the drop of a semitone on the word dona, bass drum key-shifts by thirds, and wild brass fanfares.

Dona Nobis Pacem opens with a heart-rending cry. This angelic cry from the soprano, Dona nobis pacem, is repeated at intervals, in different settings, punctuating the entire piece. From the beginning, the angel is the first to appear, soaring high and distant, beseeching peace against a choir alternatively gloomy with war, then echoing in serenity.

In the event, Vaughan Williams’s warnings and entreaties went unheeded, and the oratorio's optimism turned out historically unjustified in the short run. Vaughan Williams devoted the years of World War II to helping refugees find shelter and work, providing food by planting huge vegetable gardens and keeping chickens, and helping to stage free lunchtime concerts.

But the oratorio’s hope does not come cheap, and the humanitarian warmth and splendour of his vision remains. With Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, Dona nobis pacem remains one of the most satisfying musical answers to the questions posed by war itself. It fills a large canvas and its theme is anguished and impassioned on a cosmic scale as it pleads for peace, tolerance and understanding.

The six sections or movements are:

1, Agnus Dei

2, Beat! beat! drums! (Whitman)

3, Reconciliation (Whitman)

4, Dirge for Two Veterans (Whitman)

5, The Angel of Death (John Bright)

6, Dona nobis pacem (the Books of Jeremiah, Daniel, Haggai, Micah, and Leviticus, the Psalms, the Book of Isaiah, and Saint Luke’s Gospel)

This morning [30 March 2015], I am listening to the first movement, ‘Agnus Dei’

‘Dona nobis pacem’ with the Eastman-Rochester Chorus, the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra and Michaela Anthony, soprano

1, Agnus Dei:

The cantata opens with a soprano solo, one voice offering an apprehensive Agnus Dei, a well-known phrase in Liturgical texts. She introduces the theme, singing it over the orchestra and choir.

The chorus joins in her fervent cry for peace. In answer, the drums of war are heard in the far distance, no longer a contagious dance rhythm of centuries past but, instead, the harbinger of war.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
dona nobis pacem.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, grant us peace.


Almighty God,
whose most dear Son went not up to joy,
but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of his cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ,
you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant
and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation.
Give us the mind to follow you
and to proclaim you as Lord and King,
to the glory of God the Father.

Tomorrow: 2, Beat! beat! drums!

29 March 2015

Two brisk walks on Palm Sunday
to Harold’s Cross and in Bray

Walking on the beach in Bray this evening … thanks to the extra hour of sunlight (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

I had two good brisk walks today, and both were welcome exercises after getting wet in the rain on my walk from Churchtown to Rathfarnham yesterday.

The clocks went forward by an hour early this morning [29 March 2015], and so there was an extra hour of daylight this evening. This peculiar adjustment to the calendar at this time of the year, allowed two of us to go for a glass of wine and coffee late this afternoon in Carpe Diem in Bray before going for a walk along the beach.

The north end of the beach below the Promenade in Bray is a little more sandy than the south end, and despite the cold and wet weather we have had for the last few days, the sky was beautifully blue this evening, and the sound of the waves of the shoreline was soft and comforting.

Palm Crosses ready for the Liturgy of the Palms in Christ Church Cathedral this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Today is Palm Sunday, and I was in Christ Church Cathedral earlier in the morning for the Liturgy of the Palms and the Cathedral Eucharist.

The rain overnight had left large dollops of rainwater and pools in the grounds of the cathedral, and so instead of gathering in the Cloister Garth for the Liturgy of the Palms, we gathered in the Cathedral Crypt, and then processed up into the cathedral.

As I have been reflecting on hymns and arrangements associated with Ralph Vaughan Williams for my reflections each morning this Lenten season, it was a delight to hear the choir singing two of these settings, ‘Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness’ as the Communion Hymn, and ‘It is a thing most wonderful’ (Herrongate) as the Post-Communion Hymn.

Later, I walked as far as Harold’s Cross before catching the 49 bus home.

No 201 Harold’s Cross Road … a neglected and decaying part of 18th century heritage (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

It is 20 months since I wrote about the sad neglect and decay of No 201 Harold’s Cross Road, pointing out that this part of local history is in danger of being lost. This is the house where the Quaker abolitionist Richard Allen (1803–1886) was born. It is a large red-brick building dating from 1750, and it appears on Rocque’s maps of 1756 and 1760.

Looking at the house from the street, the surviving 18th century features include the blocked front doorcase.

By 1870, this was a ‘Female Orphanage’ with a small central path leading to the front door and an extended the north range (now No 199) with a Post Office. In 1936, the main building was still marked on maps as an orphanage. By then the north range was rebuilt, but the shop I remember as Healy’s grocery shop is now closed and derelict.

Many efforts have been made in recent years to have the complete building classified as a Protected Structure, and to ensure the protection of the railings and plinth wall in front.

But the windows are boarded up and it looks derelict; the house is now covered in graffiti; the front garden is overgrown; and there is sense that the whole site is being neglected.

I asked back in 2013 whether we are about to lose another piece of Dublin’s architectural heritage. Nothing has been done since, and the condition of the house has continued to deteriorate.

Harold’s Cross is a suburb that has a lot going for it. It has good cafés, an interesting social mix of housing, from artisan cottages at Harold’s Cross Bridge to the elegant Victorian houses and villas on Leinster Road and Kenilworth Square.

The residents may bemoan the loss of the Kenilworth Cinema in recent decades, and the fact there is no major supermarket in the immediate area. But the loss of this house would do far greater damage to the heritage and character of Harold’s Cross.

Through Lent with Vaughan Williams (40):
‘At the name of Jesus’ (‘Kings Weston’)

Early spring buttercups in front of the main front of Kings Weston House (Photograph: Kings Weston Action Group)

Patrick Comerford

For my reflections and devotions each day during Lent this year, 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).

There is a complicated set of readings in the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) for this morning, Palm Sunday [29 March 2015].

For the Principal Service, the readings provided for the Liturgy of the Palms are: Mark 11: 1-11 or John 12: 12-16; and Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29. And for the Liturgy of the Passion, the readings are: Isaiah 50: 4-9a; Psalm 31: 9-16; Philippians 2: 5-11; and Mark 14: 1 – 15: 47, or Mark 15: 1-39 (40-47).

In the reading from Saint Mark’s Gospel for the Liturgy of the Palms, the crowd shouts out:

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
– (Mark 11: 9-10)

As I prepare to take part in this morning’s Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, and as I read this Gospel passage, I am also listening to Caroline Noel’s hymn, ‘At the name of Jesus,’ for which Vaughan Williams composed the tune Kings Weston. This arrangement was published in Songs of Praise (1925), and the combination of text and tune in a hymn-anthem has become a favourite for choirs in many cathedrals, churches and colleges.

Kings Weston is marked by distinctive rhythmic structures and a soaring climax in the final two lines. Like many of Vaughan Williams’s tunes, it is best sung in unison with moderate accompaniment to support this vigorous melody.

The name of the tune refers to a manor house on the River Avon River near Bristol. It was built between 1712 and 1719 was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh for Edward Southwell on the site of an earlier Tudor house, remodelled in 1763-1768 by Robert Mylne and again between 1845 and 1850 by Thomas Hopper. A significant architectural feature of the house is the grouping of all the chimneys into a massive arcade.

The house passed through several generations of the Southwell family until the estate was sold in 1833 to Philip John Miles for £210,000, and became the family seat. During the World War I, the house was converted into a hospital, although the house continued as a family home until 1935.

The last member of the Miles family to live at Kings Weston was Philip Napier Miles (1865-1935), who lived there with his wife Sybil. He was a gifted musician and composer who had a wide circle of friends from a musical background and many of them came to stay at the house. The long library at Kings Weston was such a frequent venue for recitals that it was better known as the music room.

Napier Miles was a great-grandson of the peninsular war general from Celbridge, Co Kildare, General Sir William Francis Patrick Napier (1785-1860), a first cousin of Lord Edward FitzGerald and a direct ancestor of Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury. He studied music in Dresden, and on his return to England studied under Hubert Parry. He was a recognised composer, and his work included several operas. Westward Ho! (1913) received positive reviews after it was performed at the Lyceum in London. Another opera, Markheim, received a Carnegie award in 1921.

His friends included some of the great composers, conductors and musicians of the day. Vaughan Williams was among the regular visitor to Kings Weston, and on one visit in 1920 he revised and completed one of his most famous pieces, ‘The Lark Ascending,’ with the help of the English violinist Marie Hall (1884-1956), who had studied under Edward Elgar and was Napier Miles’s musical protégé.

They were staying at Kings Weston as guests of Napier Miles, and Vaughan Williams arranged to ‘The Lark Ascending’ to showcase her skills, dedicating it to her. The piano-accompanied premiere was on 15 December 1920, in Shirehampton Public Hall, near Bristol, which was built by Napier Miles in 1902. While it received little attention at the time, today it is regularly voted Britain’s favourite piece of classical music.

Vaughan Williams also published a melody in 1927 that he named after Kings Weston. This was written especially for Caroline Noel’s hymn, ‘At the name of Jesus.’

When Philip Napier Miles died, Kings Weston was bought by Bristol Municipal Charities and leased for use as a school. It later became the Bristol Technical College School of Architecture and then the Bath University School of Architecture. In 1970, Bristol Corporation bought the house for £305,000 to set up a police training centre. The house was abandoned from 1995 for five years before it was leased and partially restored by local businessman John Hardy.

Since 2012, the house has been extensively renovated again and has opened as a conference and wedding venue.

Fenton Hort, a portrait by George Percy Jacomb-Hood in Trinity College, Cambridge ... his Biblical scholarship changed the title and wording of this hymn

Caroline Marie Noel (1817-1877) wrote this hymn originally as a processional hymn for Ascension Day.

The text is based on the confession of faith Saint Paul quotes in Philippians 2: 6-11, which may well have been an early Christian hymn. Stanza 1 announces the triumph of the ascended Christ to whom “every knee should bow” (Philippians 2: 10). In stanza 2, Christ is the “mighty Word” (see John 1: 1-4) through whom “creation sprang at once to sight.” Stanzas 3 and 4 look back to Christ’s humiliation, death, resurrection, and ascension (Philippians 2: 6-9). Stanza 5 is an encouragement for submission to Christ, for us to have the “mind of Christ.” Stanza 6 looks forward to Christ’s return as “King of glory.” The text is not only concerned with the name of Jesus, whose saving work it confesses, but also with the glory and majesty that attends “the name of Jesus.”

This hymn was first published in 1870 in an enlarged edition of her collection The Name of Jesus, &c. It appears in the Irish Church Hymnal as ‘In the name of Jesus’ (No 94), but in the New English Hymnal it has the title ‘At the Name of Jesus’ (No 338).

Why does this popular hymn have two different names?

The verse in Philippians 2: 10 says in the original Greek: ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ (en to onomati Iesou). This is translated in the Authorised or King James Version of the Bible as: “at the name of Jesus.” However, when the Revised Version (RV) of the Bible was published in 1881, mainly under the guidance of the Cambridge theologians Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901) and the Dublin-born Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828–1892), these words were translated more accurately as: “in the name of Jesus.”

Fenton Hort entered Trinity College Cambridge in 1846, and in 1852 became a Fellow; Westcott too had been an undergraduate and later a Fellow of Trinity, where Vaughan Williams would later become a student.

Caroline Noel died four years before Westcott and Hort published the Revised Version in 1881. She must have used the words found in the KJV, but when the hymn was published in the 1903 edition of Church Hymns (London), her family asked for the change, and this is how it was introduced to the repertoire of the Church of Ireland in 1915. So an Irish-born Cambridge theologian may have influenced the change of name in one of the most popular Anglican hymns.

Caroline Maria Noel was born in Teston, Kent, on 10 April 1817, the daughter of Canon Gerard Thomas Noel (1782-1851), and niece of the hymn writer the Revd the Hon Baptist Wriothesley Noel (1798-1873). These two brothers, who were born into a large, aristocratic family of 18 children, were evangelical hymn writers in their own right; although Gerard was an Anglican priest all his life, Baptist was a barrister who later became a Church of England before becoming a Baptist minister and later President of the Baptist Union.

At the age of 17, she wrote her first hymn, ‘Draw nigh unto my soul.’ Over the next three years she wrote about a dozen hymns or poems. Then, from the age of 20 to the age of 40, she wrote nothing. At age of 35, she became an invalid, and five years later, she once again picked up her pen to write hymns that would comfort people in their sickness and illness. In her last 20 years, she wrote the rest of her hymns and poems.

The first edition of her hymns was published as The Name of Jesus and Other Verses for the Sick and Lonely (1861). This was enlarged from time to time, and its title was subsequently changed by her publishers to The Name of Jesus and Other Poems (1878).

Caroline Noel, like Charlotte Elliott, suffered greatly, and many of her verses reflect those days of pain. They are specially adapted “for the Sick and Lonely,” and were written for private meditation rather than for public use, although several are suited to the public worship of the Church.

She died at 39 Great Cumberland Place, Hyde Park, on 7 December 1877, and is buried beside her father in Abbey Church, Romsey, Hampshire, where he had been the vicar for many years.

Strangely, this hymn is not what we would expect in a collection aimed at comforting the sick and the lonely. Instead, it is a hymn about Christ and how he bore his suffering on the cross so that he might rise victorious over death.

Both the Irish Church Hymnal and the New English Hymnal suggest the tune Evelyns, composed by William Henry Monk for this hymn at the publication of Hymns Ancient and Modern in 1875. The Irish Church Hymnal offers as an alternative tune ‘Camberwell,’ which was written in 1960 by the Revd John Michael Brierley (born 1932) while he was a student at Lichfield Theological College. He named that tune in honour of the Revd Geoffrey Beaumont (1903–1970), then the Rector of Saint George’s, Camberwell. Beaumont is remembered for composing his Twentieth Century Folk Mass in an attempt to make the Mass relevant to churchgoers in the 1950s, while he was the chaplain of Trinity College, Cambridge, where Vaughan Williams was once an undergraduate.

The New English Hymnal uses the tune Evelyns for ‘At the name of Jesus’ (No 338), but offers ‘Kings Weston’ by Vaughan Williams as an alternative setting for this hymn. Instead, The New English Hymnal uses ‘Kings Weston’ as the setting for Godfrey Thring’s hymn, ‘From the eastern mountains’ (No 50).

This tune is marked by distinctive rhythmic structures and a soaring climax in the final two lines. Like many of Vaughan Williams’s tunes, it is best sung in unison with moderate accompaniment to support this vigorous melody. The combination of Noel’s words and Vaughan William’s tune make this a festive hymn or anthem, and it is a favourite among many choirs.

Kings Weston, ‘At the name Of Jesus,’ by Cardiff Festival Choir

At the name of Jesus
Every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess him
King of glory now;
’Tis the Father’s pleasure’ We should call him Lord,
Who from the beginning
Was the mighty Word.

At his voice creation
Sprang at once to sight,
All the angel faces,
All the hosts of light,
Thrones and dominations,
Stars upon their way,
All the heavenly orders,
In their great array.

Humbled for a season,
To receive a name
From the lips of sinners
Unto whom he came,
Faithfully he bore it
Spotless to the last,
Brought it back victorious
When from death he passed;

Bore it up triumphant
With its human light,
Through all ranks of creatures,
To the central height,
To the throne of Godhead,
To the Father’s breast;
Filled it with the glory
Of that perfect rest.

In your hearts enthrone him;
There let him subdue
All that is not holy,
All that is not true:
He is God the Saviour,
He is Christ the Lord,
Ever to be worshipped,
Trusted, and adored.

Brothers, this Lord Jesus
Shall return again,
With the Father’s glory,
With the angel train;
For all wreaths of empire
Meet upon his brow,
And our hearts confess him
King of glory now.


Almighty and everlasting God,
who, in your tender love towards the human race,
sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
to take upon him our flesh
and to suffer death upon the cross:
Grant that we may follow the example
of his patience and humility,
and also be made partakers of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ,
you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant
and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation.
Give us the mind to follow you
and to proclaim you as Lord and King,
to the glory of God the Father.

Tomorrow: ‘Dona nobis pacem’ 1, ‘Agnus Dei’