Month: April 2021

Poet Laureate’s poem for Prince Philip

The Patriarchs – an Elegy

A poem by the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, to mark the passing of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

The weather in the window this morning is snow,
unseasonal singular flakes,
a slow winter’s final shiver.  On such an occasion
to presume to eulogise one man is to pipe up  
for a whole generation – that crew whose survival
was always the stuff of minor miracle,
who came ashore in orange-crate coracles,
fought ingenious wars, finagled triumphs at sea
with flaming decoy boats, and side-stepped torpedoes.

Husbands to duty, they unrolled their plans
across billiard tables and vehicle bonnets,
regrouped at breakfast.  What their secrets were
was everyone’s guess and nobody’s business.
Great-grandfathers from birth, in time they became
both inner core and outer case
in a family heirloom of nesting dolls.
Like evidence of early man their boot-prints stand
in the hardened earth of rose-beds and borders.  

They were sons of a zodiac out of sync
with the solar year, but turned their minds
to the day’s big science and heavy questions. 
To study their hands at rest was to picture maps
showing hachured valleys and indigo streams, schemes
of old campaigns and reconnaissance missions.

Last of the great avuncular magicians
they kept their best tricks for the grand finale:
Disproving Immortality and Disappearing Entirely.
The major oaks in the wood start tuning up
and skies to come will deliver their tributes.
But for now, a cold April’s closing moments
parachute slowly home, so by mid-afternoon
snow is recast as seed heads and thistledown.

By Simon Armitage, the Poet Laureate

Simon became the 21st Poet Laureate in 2019. He is professor of Poetry at Leeds University.
He has written almost 30 collections of poetry.

This ‘Elegy’ for Prince Philip is on YouTube with Simon reading it. It sounds amazing read by him.
Just go to YouTube and type his name.

Flowering of the Cross

Easter Cross at St.Mary-at-Latton, Harlow.
Unfortunately because of lockdown we were unable to display it this year, so here is a view from a previous year.
[Photo: Mr G]

The Flowering of the  Cross

The flowering of the cross has been traced back to the 6th century. It is an especially striking and beautiful way to symbolize the new life that emerges from Jesus’s death on Good Friday.
Traditionally during the Easter Sunday service, the cross is covered with real flowers and draped with a white winding sheet. The entire cross is covered with flowers and is placed prominently at the front of the church to symbolize the new life in our risen Lord to all the worshippers present on Easter Sunday morning.
The contrast between the starkly bare cross that worshippers have seen for 40 days and the living flower cross of Easter Sunday dramatically and visually represents the new life that we are celebrating after witnessing the very instrument of death and endings transformed by Christ’s rising. It’s a symbol where flowers are refreshed regularly to mark the 50 days of Easter.

Lord, You have arisen forever
our hearts!
May the sunrise
Remind us to shine in Your light.

May the caress of a gentle breeze
Remind us of Your compassion.
May the fragrance of a flower
Remind us to blossom in Your love.

May the singing of birds
Bring a song of joy to our lips.
And in the closing of each day
May we remember to quietly pray.

Wherever we are, whatever we do
May our thoughts in joy return to You!

May the power of the cross,
the joy of the resurrection,
and the presence of our risen Lord
be with us all, now and always.

Loving the Dandelion

Photo: Piers Northam. Dandelions in Old Harlow

Loving the Dandelion

A frustrated gardener wrote to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. In his letter he explained that his aim to have a perfect lawn was being thwarted by the persistence of Dandelions. They simply kept appearing no matter what he did. He had  tried to root them out; he had smothered them with various chemicals; He had re-sown the most badly affected areas but it was all to no avail. In desperation he begged the Ministry to provide him with a solution to get rid of the Dandelions forever. After the usual delay, an official wrote back to him. The letter offered the Department’s considered advice: We suggest that you learn to love them.

Had he prayed to Jesus he might well have got the answer that he told in the parable of the wheat and the tares. Just let the Dandelions grow with the beautiful lush grass and then mow the lot away at the end of the season.

It might not go down too well with our frustrated gardener, though I have some sympathy with the advice because I have never tried to have a perfect lawn and I am quite fond of Dandelions. I think my love of them stretches back to my childhood when Dandelions were an essential ingredient to one of my favourite beverages – Dandelion & Burdock. They also provided a small source of income as a child. My friend and I would pick them from derelict land, wrap bunches of them in newspaper and sell them to kindly passers by who clearly knew a bargain when they saw one!

There is a truth that one person’s weed is another person’s treasure, or as A A Milnes said, weeds are flowers too once you get to know them. There are  those who agree with that. I have come across a Dandelion Appreciation Society in America though I am not sure how active it is. However, the Dandelion has more enemies than friends, even though it is quite a lovely flower. It’s just an unwelcome visitor in well-manicured gardens which needs to be got rid of.

God, however, seems to have a different idea. He seems to love that sunshine flower many would perhaps prefer to destroy. There’s no accounting for taste – especially divine taste and God does seem to love a lot of things that we might prefer to reject. There’s a pause for thought there!

An article in the Guardian  newspaper some time back expressed the opinion that ‘In human terms it would be the child you would rather your child didn’t play with

The Dandelion, unaware of all this, just gets on with its task to delight and annoy in equal measure.

It also tends to have the last laugh as our correspondent to DEFRA discovered. It has an amazing self-survival technique. It has deep tap roots and, after flowering, the white fluffy globe which is the seed heads waiting to be carried by the wind to anywhere it fancies. Children help too (and maybe even some delinquent adults) with the game of blowing on the seeds into the air and making a wish as they do so.

This makes the Dandelion almost unassailable. They will doubtless still be growing long after the human race has made itself extinct. The golden, sun-like flower with its intricate and gorgeous leaf formation will still be bringing bright joy to otherwise dull verges, hedgerows, fields, wastelands,  and almost anywhere.

We should indeed learn to love them, though I am not expecting total agreement about that!

But here’s a thing: When the fluffy ball is ready to cast its seeds, why not take it in your hand and blow gently on it, but instead of making a wish, send each seed on its way with a prayer addressed to God . This would make the Dandelion a prayer – wheel which  takes our prayers , sorrows, thanksgivings and praises to God… just a thought.
Here’s a poem.

Dandelion clock’s
gossamer seeds –
each one a prayer 
breathed heavenwards,
lifted on currents
to settle gently
in the loving palm of God’s hand.

[Mr G & PN]

Half – Mast

photo, hpstirrup: Flag at half mast in respect for Prince Philip. Whitechapel St James, Lancashire.

Public buildings, churches and many other places are flying the Union Jack at half-mast today as a mark of respect for His Royal Highness Prince Philip.

I have deliberately chosen this image because it links Prince Philip with a church and acts as a reminder that, for Prince Philip, his Christian faith was of deep importance to him.

A spokesperson for the United Reform Church said: “Many who have known the Duke of Edinburgh bear witness to the depth of his faith and his theological knowledge.A regular visitor to Mount Athos, and a keen questioner of preachers, his faith was much more than nominal.”

He was baptized by the Greek Orthodox Church and in 1947, just before his marriage to Her Majesty the Queen he was ‘received’ into the Church of England by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher. The present Archbishop Justin Welby, yesterday paid thanks to God for the Prince’s exraordinary life and dedicated service and for his unfailing support and unstinting loyalty to Her Majesty The Queen for 73 years.

The Archbishop went on to say, “He consistently put the interests of others ahead of his own and, in so doing, provided an outstanding example of Christian service.”

He had a deep joy for life and for people. The Archbishop spoke of, “his enquiring mind and his ability to communicate to people from every background and walk of life. He was a master at putting people at their ease and making them feel special.”

He will be particularly remembered for The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme which he founded in 1956, and which the Archbishop said, “has inspired generations of young people to help others and instilled in them a vision for citizenship and a desire to serve their communities.”

With reference to the task we face in rebuilding our lives and our society as a result of Covid-19, the Archbishop said that we can draw inspiration from Prince Philip’s “fortitude and a deep sense of commitment to serving others. Throughout his life Prince Philip displayed those qualities in abundance, and I pray that we can take inspiration from his example.”

His was a life guided by God and given over to humble and totally dedicated service; an independent thinker with a pragmatic faith on which he drew in good times and in not so good.He was an example of the self-giving which Jesus instils in his followers. He was filled with Grace which flowed from God into a life rejoicing in a theological and spiritual understanding of God’s love. This love has now drawn him into the nearer presence of God and to resurrection joy.

Heavenly Father, we give you thanks because through Jesus our Risen Christ,
you have given us the hope of a glorious resurrection;
so that, although death comes to us all,
yet we rejoice in the promise of eternal life;
for to your faithful people life is changed not taken away;
and when our mortal flesh is laid aside,
an everlasting dwelling place is made ready for us in heaven.

Common Worship, Church of England