"A host, of golden daffodils..."

Stumbling on beauty unexpectedly

Huw Williams | 15:35, Friday 27 March 2015 | Turin, Italy

It is always a particular joy when one stumbles on beauty quite unexpectedly. For Wordsworth it was in the surprise of a spray of daffodils, for me over the last few weeks it has been in discovering the poetry of George Herbert (1593-1632) through the music of one of my favourite composers, Vaughan Williams.

I didn't know the Vaughan Williams "Five Mystical Songs" very well before, I never worked on them, but I usually have an unfamiliar Vaughan Williams piece on my playlist and this was the latest. As usual the music is exquisite, but I have been even more impressed by the lines he chose to set.

It is intriguing how often the self-confessed "cheerful agnostic" Vaughan Williams was drawn to Christian texts - and how sensitiviely he often set them. I will leave you to go away and discover the music, but for now, let George Herbert speak for himself:-

LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back, 
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack'd anything.

'A guest,' I answer'd, 'worthy to be here:'
Love said, 'You shall be he.'
'I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.'
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
'Who made the eyes but I?'

'Truth, Lord; but I have marr'd them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.'
'And know you not,' says Love, 'Who bore the blame?'
'My dear, then I will serve.'
'You must sit down,' says Love, 'and taste my meat.'
So I did sit and eat.

- And that is a meditation worthy of anyone's Easter.

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