The mood lifts.
Stepping out into the cool air of an early April evening, the sky in the east is shades of blue, fresh growth has brought fresh traces of green in the adjoining pasture. The waxing moon will be full later this week, assuming its paschal form.
There is a timelessness in this place. Centuries of forebears have been here. It is not hard to imagine their presence: weathered skin, gnarled hands, burred accents. Having just enough to hold on and never enough to move on, they have been here for centuries .
Once, there would have been a desire to appear orthodox in beliefs, to tick the boxes prescribed by the ecclesiastical authorities. Once, it would have seemed a heresy to have suggested heaven was anything other than the supernatural visions described in First Century writings.
Standing looking eastward at the windmill, the words of Charlotte Mew’s Old Shepherd’s Prayer came back.
Up to the bed by the window, where I be lyin’,
Comes bells and bleat of the flock wi’ they two children’s clack.
Over, from under the eaves there’s the starlings flyin’,
And down in yard, fit to burst his chain, yapping out at Sue
I do hear young Mac.
Turning around like a falled-over sack
I can see team plowin’ in Whithy-bush field
and meal carts startin’ up road to Church-Town;
Saturday afternoon the men goin’ back
And the women from market, trapin’ home over the down.
Heavenly Master, I wud like to wake to they same green places
Where I be know’d for breakin’ dogs and follerin’ sheep.
And if I may not walk in th’ old ways and look on th’ old faces
I wud sooner sleep.
Mew was a Cornish poet at the turn of the Twentieth Century, her lines capture the dialect of the far south-west. Her poem sometimes found favour with clergy of a more liberal inclination, but its sentiments would be frowned upon by those of an evangelical disposition with their insistence upon doctrinal certitude.
‘If heaven is not a spring evening in Somerset, with a small dog for company,’ I thought, ‘then it’s not heaven.’