Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

Bright field of dreams

I was introduced to The Bright Field by a friend, Robin, whilst we were on a course a few years back.

The Bright field

The Bright Field [Buttermere, Cumbria ©AlastairCutting]

Curiously, it is Hillsborough that has brought the poem very much back to mind. Let’s have a reminder of the poem first, and there is an audio/file of RS Thomas reading it himself linked below:

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

The Bright Field
by R. S. Thomas (1913-2000)

Audio file via PoeticTouch.

 

But why Hillsborough bring this poem to mind?

I’ve blogged before that I was a local curate at the time, and involved in some of the immediate aftermath. One of my strong memories, as I walked back down ‘the tunnel’ a couple of times afterwards, was the contrast of the bright green playing field in the sun seen from the shadows of the tunnel.

Tunnel 1989

Tunnel 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The field is so inviting. You can see it. You can almost touch it. There’s ramp, a slope down to it. It’s just … there.

There is an American sports movie called the Field of Dreams, encapsulating the draw – particularly but not exclusively  – for some men to sports, to team games, and to the playing field, or pitch, or ground.

Hymns don’t often make good theology – though they may be better at theology than movies are. But even here we may get glimpsesof heaven, as Ray Kinsella found in the film.

John Kinsella: Is this heaven?
Ray Kinsella: It’s Iowa.
John Kinsella: Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven.
      [starts to walk away]
Ray Kinsella: Is there a heaven?
John Kinsella: Oh yeah. It’s the place where dreams come true.
      [Ray looks around, seeing his wife playing with their daughter on the porch]
Ray Kinsella: Maybe this is heaven.
            The Field of Dreams – 1989 Phil Alden Robinson Universal/TriStar

Jesus likens the Kingdom of Heaven to treasure in a field, and to a pearl of unfathomable value, of great price; in Matt 13:44-46. Both are images that R.S.Thomas specifically references in the poem. Not a great surprise, perhaps, for the Welsh priest/poet that he was.

That field. Seen it. Forgotten it. But now having seen it again, illuminated, incandescent, Thomas goes on: I realise now that I must give all that I have to possess it.

These sports grounds, these football fields are often a focus for hurrying on to a receding future, [or] hankering after an imagined past. Many memories of matches remembered; of dreams and hopes for the future. The rise and fall of emotion; the tears wept, the joy unconfined. They hold a sense of the numinous about them – the singing, swaying, the shared liturgy and language – even prayers (!) – they are almost religious in their fervour. No wonder some talk of sport as their faith, of the great venues as their cathedrals, temples. Bill Shankly, powerfully linked to Liverpool, is famously quoted as saying “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that”.

I was recently reading back some of the witness stories of a number of Hillsborough survivors, and the camaraderie, the shared experience was a powerful memory; some saying the ‘we all came last year and we wanted to all come back again this year’ before the full portent of this particular pilgrimage unfurled before them.

Even after the catastrophe, faith remains a part of the story. I recalled in the previous blog post how 4 fans came in to our local church on the Sunday morning, just hours later. To another one of those ‘thin places‘ where heaven comes closer to touching earth. To come to seek, to pray, to place a loved one lost in to the hands of God. Nearly every anniversary since the first, there has been significant input of hymns & prayers, along with speeches & memories, at each of the ceremonies.

In the poem, Thomas looks: to the miracle … to a brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

Looking back to the 15 April 1989, though much remains sharp in the mind of each of those most closely affected by Hillsborough, inevitable some of the memories become a little faded, a bit more transitory each year; the images of the ever-youthful 96 remain unchanged, even as ‘those who are left grow old‘. Perhaps that is why there is still such a strong sense of hope around Hillsborough – a very Liverpool – characteristic, the city with two cathedrals linked by a street called Hope.

For RS Thomas, the brightness that has shone on this field leads at last to the eternity that awaits you. May it lead to eternity for you too.

 

The BBC has a Profile of each of the Hillsborough 96, and the Liverpool Echo has created an image grid that links to each of the 96 too.

 

 

 

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Leaps of Christ

Jumping in the sunset

The Leaps of Christ - credit thriol

The ‘Leaps of Christ’ was part of the theme taken by Bishop John Hind at the Chichester Diocesan Synod recently. I had heard of this Old English poem, but on being re-introduced to it, it led me to explore some of the wonderful Advent and Christmas within it.

The section on the Leaps of Christ comes within the part known as Christ II, or sometimes Christ B, within the Exeter Book. The first book deals primarily with Advent, book two with the Ascension, and the third Continue reading ‘Leaps of Christ’

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Priests’ Blessing

Our local clergy chapter were meeting this week, and I was ‘hosting’. Usually, part of hosting involves preparing some prayers and worship. As we were also ‘RememberingSt Martin of Tours, I had a few things up my sleeve, including a fine shell remembering the pilgrims that stopped at St Martin’s shrine in Tours on the Way of St James.

New Zealand Paua - credit ReedWade

New Zealand Paua - credit ReedWade

Actually the shell was in my pocket, rather than up my sleeve; and paua were not really the sorts of shells that pilgrims on the way to Compostela normally wore (they were usually scallops… But these paua are exquisite. We have brought back dozens from NZ over the years.

Back to prayers and blessings. I have dabbled a bit in Celtic Spirituality over the years, and recently acquired a copy of a couple of John O’Donohue’s books. Continue reading ‘Priests’ Blessing’

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The Arundel Tomb

Chichester Cathedral is the ‘mother church’ of the diocese, and as a Sussex priest, I find myself there from time to time. I love wandering through the cathedral when I get a chance. It has so many superb features about it; but one of my favourites is ‘The Arundel Tomb’.

The Arundel Tomb - credit Tom Oates

The Arundel Tomb - credit Tom Oates

It is a fourteenth century table tomb on which lie the effigies of Richard Fitzalan Earl of Arundel, and his second wife Eleanor. One of the most charming features is the way that they are both holding hands, Richard’s hand having been removed from the gauntlet still held in his left hand.

Arundel Tomb hands - credit bmeabroad

Arundel Tomb hands - credit bmeabroad

Continue reading ‘The Arundel Tomb’

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