Tag Archives: Requiem

Remembrance Sunday Afternoon

november sunlight on the Wear

November sunlight on the Wear

There was a very moving Remembrance Sunday service in Durham Cathedral this morning. The Cathedral was packed, not only with civic dignitaries, and representatives of the various uniformed organisations but with the people of Durham itself and with young men in uniform some of whom stood through the silence with tears in their eyes, clearly remembering good friends and perhaps recent experience in war zones. An occasion that had seemed, in my childhood to be about distant and receding history seemed now completely relevant and contemporary. The words of the service and the sermon certainly remembered the horrors and waste of war as well as the extraordinary courage and service those horrors brought out in so many, glimpses of heaven in the midst of hell, as the preacher put it. Afterwards there was an amazing parade through the town with people standing on the streets and applauding the veterans as they passed. And in the early afternoon I sat on a bench by the river as the November sunlight shone off the Wear and, just below me fisherman quietly cast their lines, and that seemed to me as good an image as any of the peace for which we had been praying in the Cathedral. Sitting where I was I composed these lines:

(As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button)

Remembrance Sunday Afternoon

 

November sunlight shimmers on the Wear,

Wide waters slip unhurried  by each bank

And soothe Remembrance Sunday afternoon.

After the service, after the parades,

After the poppies, after the last post,

I sit and drink in quietness and peace,

The peace those Durham infantry forsook

To keep it sacred for the likes of me.

Some of them surely fished this very spot

Where Durham fishermen are sitting still

On folded camp stools. May those fallen men

Whom we remembered in the high cathedral

Drink deep now from the river of true life

Where all their wounds are healed, where living light

Flows from the source of every time and tide

And may they know that we remember them.

 

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Filed under Current affairs, Poems

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus: a Requiem sonnet for All Souls

Mozart's requiemIf there is ever a moment when the veil is thin, when, as we come close to Christ, we come close to those who are alive in Christ, then it is when we sing the Sanctus in Communion. As the liturgy says:

‘Therefore with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of Heaven we laud and magnify thy glorious name evermore praising thee and saying: Holy, Holy, Holy…

Here we consciously echo the song of the angels as Isaiah heard it, and for a moment, by grace of the sursum corda, the lifting up of our hearts, we sing for a moment, not only with the angels, but with those whom we have loved and see no longer, those with whom we are still bound together in the communion of saints. This is why the setting of the Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, the Holy, Holy, Holy, in any Requiem is especially poignant. Such music must have an element of yearning and longing, since we sing for those we have lost,  and since all the best and even the most joyful of the songs of the earth have that elegiac note of exile and yearning for home, but it must also have an element of joy and mystery, since it echoes the joy and music of Heaven. The great Sanctus in Mozart’s final Requiem seems to me to combine these two qualities in music of heart-breaking beauty.

At Girton we often sing a Requiem on All Soul’s Day, which falls this Sunday, 2nd of November. I won’t be there this season, but will hear it instead in the glories of Durham Cathedral. But here, for the feast, is a sonnet which was originally composed about the experience of listening to Mozart’s Requiem at Greenbelt in 2001,as I took leave of good friends, and now has its place, slightly adapted and re-titled ‘Sanctus’, as the final poem in my book Sounding the Seasons. I post it again for all those who need, in this season of remembrance, the quickening touch of the Sanctus


Mozart at Greenbelt

We lie upon the grass on God’s good earth
and listen to the Requiem’s intense,
long, love-laden keening, calling forth
echoes of Eden, blessing every sense
with brimming blisses, every death with birth,
until all passion passes into praise.

I bless the winding paths that brought us here,
I bless this day, distinct amidst our days,
I bless the light, the music-laden air,
I bless the interweaving of our ways,
the lifting of the burdens that we bear,
I bless the broken body that we share

Sanctus the heart, Sanctus the spirit cries,
Sanctus the flesh in every touch replies

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Filed under christianity, economy, Poems

Poetry Aloud (and a little Mozart!)

As you know I have been posting occasional poems on this blog for a while and various friends have asked to hear me read them. In particular they would like to hear the Advent Sonnets read aloud. I intend to record those in the next day or two and I hope, with the help of one of our choristers, to let you hear the antiphons themselves sung in plain chant, so watch this space.

I am using an excellent service called Audioboo. Which I hope you can play from this page So to try things out, here is a poem of mine about listening to music called Mozart at Greenbelt, you should be able to play it by clicking on the play symbol below.I have also printed out the text of the poem. If the play button doesnt appear then click on the title of the poem:

Mozart at Greenbelt

We lie upon the grass on God’s good earth
and listen to the Requiem’s intense,
long, love-laden keening, calling forth
echoes of Eden, blessing every sense
with brimming blisses, every death with birth,
until all passion passes into praise.

I bless the winding paths that brought us here,
I bless this day, distinct amidst our days,
I bless the light, the music-laden air,
I bless the interweaving of our ways,
the lifting of the burdens that we bear,
I bless the broken body that we share

Sanctus the heart, Sanctus the spirit cries,
Sanctus the flesh in every touch replies

7 Comments

Filed under imagination, literature, Music, Poems