In this world and the next

There was a poetry in the hymns we sang at High Ham Primary School.  Apart from the entirely banal When a knight won his spurs, the choices from our hymnbook were weighty in theological and literary terms.  Even to someone who had few religious inclinations, there was imagery and imagination in the lines we sang.  There were words we did not understand, words that might have prompted pondering even among adults. There were rhymes and alliteration and the sort of poetic devices our teacher tried to teach us.  Lines like which wert and art and evermore shalt be linger in the memory more than fifty years after standing in that long gone classroom.

Perhaps such childhood experiences helped create a sense of timelessness, a sense of living at every moment all at once, a recalling of distant memories with a realism so vivid that the linear order of events can become confused. The boy at High Ham school is much a part of the present as are the subsequent incarnations of him, the child being the father of the man and all that stuff.

Stepping out of the car at the house that has been the family home for the past fifty-seven years, there was a moment in which all the moments seemed gathered. Perhaps it was the sense of the approach of Easter, perhaps it was simply the sound of silence and birdsong after the noise of Dublin.

The landscape of home has been inhabited for two millennia, the mosaic floor from the Roman villa lies in the county museum.  There are people who claim to have seen legionnaires passing through.

Turning toward the door, the thought occurred that the number of years when such moments might occur was much less than it had been.  How many more times might I drive the road from Fishguard to Somerset? How many more spring evenings might there be when arrival is greeted by birdsong and tranquility?

In a moment, there came the realisation that it didn’t really matter, it didn’t matter what decade it might be, none of it mattered if time was all at once.

I smiled recalling Miss Rabbage sitting at the piano in the junior classroom. The hymns, the timeless hymns, Now thank we all, our God was among them.

. . . keep us in his grace,
and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all ills
in this world in the next.

This world, the next world, the past world, which wert and art and evermore shalt be.



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