Englands Green & Pleasant Land
London. Englands Green.
Browning’s poem Christmas Eve especially opened the door for me, finally walked through, after decades of thinking about it. Browning and Tennyson before Westminster Abbey. A cordial reception and then a dressing down. The Federation of the World.
Blake and Milton walk together over from St. Margaret’s Church and join us. My master guides me to what Blake called, so rightly, “Englands green & pleasant land.” A simple parish church. Surrounding graves. A church perhaps Thomas Hardy had restored, in need again of his services. A prayer.
And the Lady of the Lake. A thrush, not darkling now, though it were. Excalibur. Arthur returns. An inscription on the shining blade.
Westminster Abbey Evensong
“Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14.22
While visiting England for ten days at the end of July, 2009, I attended Evensong with my wife in London at Westminster Abbey. For an American it’s a rare experience to be in a building, let alone a cathedral, that’s over a thousand years old. In Michigan there’s little that extends back before the 1860s to1880s. Yet much of our trip included pilgrimage, as it were, to one ancient site after another, central to civilization and English literature, and several other buildings three to five hundred years old. The time scale itself is fascinating, humbling, elevating. Rising heavenward into vaulted ceilings, the columns of Westminster Abbey ascend. Prayer in stone and song resound from the quire. Hearts reach towards God. Thanksgiving beyond the murmuring of words.
In Japan and China, I had been in many temples, pagodas, and other religious sites that were several hundred years old and older. Westminister Abbey, dedicated in 1065 AD, was the first experience I’ve had of Western sacred ground of comparable antiquity and worth. There are some poets entombed and memorialized in the southern transept.
Having reread the Book of Acts and the writings of St. Paul and the other apostles, prior to setting off for England, along with a lifetime of reading English literature and history, I felt prepared and fortified for the journey. Life as it is lived, on the ground, on planet earth, always plays a crucial role in one’s education.