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winter’s morning

winter's morning

What is this love to you? – no more
Than a web woven of parting and absence,
A cradle the frost spins for evanescence
And fixes at three trembling points or four
Between reed and reed at the lake's brink
On a winter's morning? Or do you see
Us two linked only by fragile tracery
Of long-wintered on the lake?

Patternings
As frail as these have a place in nature, 
Vanishing always between past and future, 
And in love to is a place for yearnings
And in torture of wind in the web and high
Mockery of leafless twigs. 

But where am I?
O come and find me where the rock gives birth
In the deep luxurious hollows of the earth
And find me in the boles of mighty trees. 
Find me and love me in the mosses of my ease
Where lusty roots and limbs timelessly  writhe, 
Where our long summer's buried but alive. 

at our destination

at our destination

Do you know there are two roads?
We take them both. 
We take the hard highway, scuffing the gravel
With determined stride; and with us travel
Innumerable friends and strangers, loath
Within the crowd to hazard separation
On the sun-drummed route towards a destination
Not one of us shall ever reach. 

But you and I
Take also another road that the high-grassed fell
Hides from the mob – a pathway plunging in a dell
Undergrown too deep for any raiding eye
to delve our leaf-funnelled passage. 

Darling girl, 
Here in this tree-borne birdsong and the hollow curl
Of water at our feet, we two can stray
Where we will – at destination all the way. 

trees’ end

trees' end

We seem to know
the place already, meeting at the tree's end. 
Have our ancestors been here? Each
know the path the other had come by, 
though I'd not tracked through your bright fields
nor you my woods. 

We seemed to know
that something was expected, 
and we found we loved
neither was surprised
but only glad this was the place
our blood remembered a thousand years
since we were children first.

The flowering weed

The flowering weed

For generations we had waited
as incomplete as all the others standing in their doorways.
And even we steal each other, 
a double theft, my Lara, your Zhivago –
our love illicit, not a garden flower
but a flowering weed that grew
 brilliantly in crevices of rock
long before man ever cleared a plot of ground
and planted by intent.

Evolutionary Poems

Evolutionary Poems

We are all crumbs

We are all crumbs,
fallen from the Master’s table,
such Mastery as made this rock
and water made
and wind, sun, dust, detritus, silt.
These were gifts
indifferently surveyed
and we, we covert motions
creviced and murked and damp,
we swellings in the mud, we
glomerates, we gave back buds
and flowers, mosses, love.
Yea, love we showed him,
brandished love to Him preoccupied
with universal things,
knelt, bowed, on our provincial planet
demanding mercy.

One of us
within our sedimentary nests
claimed him not Master but
Abba, Father, claimed and proclaimed
and so proclaiming died and rose
sealing at the wood crux
(where dimensions touch, eternity and time)
a pact of blood and water
between the fluke of Him and us.
We are his crumbs, we diamonds are
From his terranean carbon ranges,
Tiny and rare, treats for his cheek.
And of his million million fires
We ring the smoke about the iris of our eyes
 His love to recognise.


Who are these, fur-capped

Who are these we come across fur-capped
At the roadside, staved, suspicious, wrapped
Against an adversary we are not acquainted with exactly –
Wary of lowlanders, never first to speak,
Yet responding to our greeting and (in the basic mode)
Sharing our lingo?

If not in line of time our ancestors,
Surely it is these that took our past
Up by the sunless tributary gullies,
Difficult to pass and single file for goats,
To what were once pastures in most parched
High summertime, and settled there above
The treeline, not for a season,
But to live and die.

The younger men trespass down,
With a few hides and artefacts of bone.
For a single day, or a day and a night’s unrest
Lodged at the town’s edge, their zest
Gone absent, narrow-eyed, observing little,
Watchful for exploitation, trickery and the derision
Of our children.

Then they are away again for another year, on foot,
Squatting at the roadside to regroup their hearts,
Rising hesitantly as our vehicle decelerates,
Swart, monkey-faced, smelling of old smoke,
Uncertain if to smile or be on guard
Upon the currency (for ornament), salt, tobacco,
Peppers and white sugar in the warm
Darkness of their clothing.

On our return they are gone, we suppose
Moved off between high grasses on a trail we never noticed
Still half a day’s tramp to where the mountains start
And their legends of precipitous routes by tree-cramped
Torrent. Then the bared steps where their turf huts
Crouch windowless against the cold
That slays their frail each winter, an adversary
We are not acquainted with
Exactly.

Were these not they of the simple life
Whom we townsmen, sophisticates, boulevardiers,
Affect to envy?



On Faith and Art – St George’s Church, 30 October 2018

The Resurrection by Piero della Francesca

You are never so much yourself
as when you lose yourself.

Lecture at St George’s Church,
Campden Hill, on 30 October 2018

I have brought you here under false pretences.  The title of this series is Exploring Faith Through the Arts. But what I intend to do is re-define Faith and re-define Art … and perhaps thereby (and by God’s grace) discern what is taking place between these two fundamental realities. I shall project for you no pictures (though I shall refer to some which are already familiar of have been made familiar by the valuable talks we have had so far). I shall be quoting passages from certain writers and from Scripture. But I don’t want to hang this talk on visual or verbal or aural samples of art from art’s vast panoply but, rather, keep upon the plane of ideas, of theological and philosophic perception. Continue reading “On Faith and Art – St George’s Church, 30 October 2018”

‘Old men ought to be explorers …’ – Wotton Society (Eton) 70th Anniversary Speech

Tom Stacey’s 88th birthday on January 11, 2018 was the date selected for the celebration at Eton College of the 70th anniversary of his foundation of Wotton’s Society (in the field of philosophy), with a dinner hosted by the Provost of Eton, the The Rt Hon Lord Waldegrave, at which Tom Stacey was guest-of-honour and gave the following speech without recourse to notes: Continue reading “‘Old men ought to be explorers …’ – Wotton Society (Eton) 70th Anniversary Speech”

Religion: The Ultimate Art Form – St George’s Church, 4 October 2016

Religion: The Ultimate Art Form

A lecture first delivered at St George’s Church,
Campden Hill, London, on 4 October 2016

Thank you for coming to listen to a talk on a theme, which on the face of it would have been enough some seven centuries ago to have the speaker bound at the stake ready for burning. When Father James heard of my flash of perception of  ‘religion – the ultimate art form’ from a member of his flock, a great friend of mine, he daringly invited me to be one the lecturers in the series Exploring Faith through Art. Thank you, Fr James. For my flash of perception was somewhat à côté. Continue reading “Religion: The Ultimate Art Form – St George’s Church, 4 October 2016”