Category Archives: economy

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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The Old Revolution

Three days of peace and music

In my last post I was reflecting a little on Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock. continuing in that vein I thought I’d post a little reflection in Ottava Rima about what went wrong with those dreams, prompted partly by a sense of hope and ferment in the air again. I think the real problem was that consciousness-changing insight somehow crumbled into consumerism. People felt that they could deal in and purchase bliss and joy, chemically manufactured, rather than letting it flower and fruit from deeply planted spiritual roots, but maybe next time it will be different. Anyway what follows is a kind of  ‘confession’ for a generation (not enirely and privately my own confession you understand, I was a little too young at the time for some of that stuff) but a confession of failure which can, I believe, be put right and begun again, but this time with prayer and meditation rather than easier and more delusory substances. Here it is ‘for what it’s worth’ (As Stephen stills would say)

As always you can hear it by clicking on the title or the play button.

Revolution

I fought in the old revolution” Leonard Cohen

When I turned teen in nineteen-sixty-nine
I heard of revolution in the air,
Or on the air, in fact on ‘Caroline’.
Lennon and Lenin had so much to share
A change would come and change would be benign,
A fairer world, and all the world a fair.
‘Here comes the sun’ we sang to blissed-out skies
And thought the bomber jets were butterflies.

We conjured faeries out of every flower
But something wicked slipped out with the weed
Stoned circles never yet spoke truth to power
And groovers were grasped soon enough by greed.
For, after Altamonte, our world turned sour
And self-consuming souls turned onto speed.
The times were out of joint,oh cursed spite!
We thought that one more joint would set them right!

Now revolution’s once more in the air
Will we repeat mistakes we made back then?
We took a lot of everything but care
And we were just consumers in the end.
My counsel is no counsel of despair
It may not be too late to try again!
Our trips could never switch an institution
But just one crank can start a revolution.

someone started this

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A Wound in the Waters of the Gulf

“Earth felt the wound, and nature from her seat
Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe,
That all was lost.”

So Milton describes the moment of the fall in Paradise Lost, the moment a single human action breaks and wounds both the relation between humanity and God, and the relation between ourselves and our world. Milton sees the deep link between our spiritual state and the state we keep and leave the world in. But these harrowing lines might well describe the tragedy unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil welling up uncontrollably through a hole that we have made and cannot cap is a sign, to many o us, of our wounded planet, a sign of the damage we have done and are doing, and of our seeming inability to put it right. And it’s no good blaming BP. They are deep-water drilling to meet our demands, and the real cause of this tragedy is our collective addiction to oil itself. We have a lifestyle, an economy, even an agriculture, entirely based on burning oil; a way of life that is not only unsustainable but invisibly toxic. But this wound in the earth’s surface, this oil welling up through the waters, has also brought the toxins of our whole way of life to the surface and made them visible. For those recovering from addiction it has sometimes taken a crisis to make a change, it has needed a break-down for a break-through, and it maybe that this crisis in the gulf, an environmental disaster on an unparalleled scale, is th world’s wake-up call, our Kairos moment. If we can face it at its worst we can also have hope. Though Milton wrote ‘all was lost’, his poem is alive with the promise of ‘one greater man’ who would ‘restore us and regain the blissful seat.’ Christians, who know that the wounds in our world stem from those same wounds in us that Jesus came to heal, have a special calling to speak both judgement and hope into the present crisis. I leave you with the words of another poet, Wendell Berry, from an interview about the oil spill in the gulf, in which he names the values we need to espouse in order to have hope:

‘diversity, versatility, recognition, and acceptance of appropriate limits or getting the scale right, and local adaptation — those ideas, it seems to me, put us in reach of work that we can do. To assume that all experiences like that oil well can only be handled by experts at great expense is a mistake.’

heres a link to that interview

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Love in the Red a song for the Prime Ministerial Debate

I won’t be in the audience as Clegg, Brown and Cameron debate the economy, but if  I was, I might warm the audience up with this little song composed the day Woolies closed in Huntingdon. Frankly I think these debates would be transformed if Caroline Lucas, the Leader of The Greens was on them, then we really would be hearing a voice for change. but their day will come. you can hear the song and download it free here (apologies to Steve Earl and GK Chesterton)

The shop fronts are all empty
The house-hold names are gone
They boarded up old Woolworths
And stripped it to the bone
The brand new cars are rusting
in car parks by the sea
And all that we’ve got left is love
At least our love is free

The bankers took our money
For their mansions on the hill
And lent the poor that funny cash
That makes them poorer still
They taught me not to trust them
It cost me quite a fee
But we’ve still got some love in tryst
At least that love is free

Cho:
Come over from the window
Come over from the door
Come over to the mattress
I spread our on the floor
The bailiffs, they might take our bed
But the bastards cant take me
And we can make love in the red
Because our love is free

And now they’ve thrown our taxes
Down the city’s silk-line hole
While the bosses throw the workers
To the dogs and on the dole
starlets still throw their parties
For the moguls on TV
But throw me out the lifeline
of a life-time’s love for free

I remember when we started
In the times that went before
We spent our ingenuity
In making love not war
And I was all the world to you
You were all the world to me
So lets make love not war again
And set the new world free

Cho:
Come over from the window
Come over from the door
Come over to the mattress
I spread our on the floor
The love we made without our bed
Is the best there’s ever been
And once we’ve made love in the red
We’ll go out and vote Green

Now we’ve still got a little room
To play at boy meets girl
While I pick out this little tune
I picked up from Steve Earl
I know its just a cheap guitar
And a borrowed melody
But I can vouch for every word
And all my love is free.

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