18 January 2016

Evensong - Lighten our darkness …

The swirling waters of the great river leave behind 
the bustle of the noon-tide port, the scream of sirens,
the bellow of hooters and the chaos of the Quay.
It moves silent and calm now into the roseate West
where the tired sun sinks lazily into a darkening sea.

In the Minster the evening candles have been lit,
their shadows dancing like grasses in the wind, 
spread across the old stone altar in the chapel 
where the red light hangs, a perpetual reminder 
that this is a place of sanctuary and of prayer.

Beside the estuary and across the vast expanse
of mud and marsh and sand, pink footed geese fly
home to their roost, while the curlew’s haunting cry
faintly echoes the bell’s summons to Evensong,
there to reflect on the day and pray for tomorrow. 

“Lighten our darkness we beseech thee O Lord”
The ancient chapel stirs, the old words reverberate
and gather darkly in the rafters high above,
tiny candle flames leap suddenly upwards, 
haloes of light in darkness, an answer to prayer.

The sky above the estuary is filled with the dusky
mist of evening, a lamb stranded on the Sea Bank
calls for its mother but only the Barn Owl hoots
in reply as it swoops over the salt marsh on its way
to its fishing ground at the edge of the wide river. 

Tomorrow the sun will rise into the eastern sky, 
the world be remade as it has been daily since those
first bright days of creation, but tonight, far away
across the marsh, a lone blackbird still sings and I
rejoice that our evensong of praise is never done.

08 January 2016

A poem for the New Year

In the beginning, Music …

At the 1799 first public performance of Haydn’s Creation in Vienna, the Overture, the first recitative and Chorus were all written around the sombre key of C minor.  The following section with its unexpectedly bold opening fortissimo chord of C major, marking the creation of Light, so electrified the Viennese audience that, for some minutes, the orchestra was unable to move on to the Introduction to the first Tenor aria.

In the perpetual stygean darkness
of a desolate void and turbulent gloom. 
Haydn heard dark chords empty and disparate,
cadences disappeared like hope before dawn.
Chaos reigned, sad lonely monarch of nothing,
faithless and sinister, faceless and threatening,
cloaked in a mantle of grey shadows and fear.

But the Spirit of God moved a new dawning,
lichen and mosses unfurled their drab beauty
quietly chanting their first sunrise hymn,
singing clouds sailed stately over blue waters,
and breezes blew through the stems of tall reeds
like far distant oboes announcing the news
that Creation’s Odyssey was now begun.

Following the music the journey continues
as trumpets of flowers call us to prayer,
the meandering stream’s soft ostinato
offers its song to the still summer evening,
and fluting owls in the cool gathering dusk 
sing praises and psalms once heard in a garden,
reflections of Paradise from the deep night. 

God’s were the melodies sung by Creation,
stars in the night sky his sweet psalteries of gold,
and carolling birds his immutable choir.
’Twas Love first struck the great Chord of C major,
but the genius of Haydn echoed its sound
opening our eyes to a glory unending,
revealed to us all in that vast burst of light.