Taking its title from the first poem, this book opens with the thought of past experiences remaining in our memories. It passes on to poems, hymns and meditations on various themes.
The final verses return to the opening theme, but looking at it from a Christian viewpoint.
Some deal with with the problems of bereavement and suffering. Some with Christian doctrine and the spiritual life, the relationship between time and eternity. Some are written to be sung: some for meditation. All have notes added.
The first speaks of the changes wrought in ourselves and our surroundings. The last speaks of eternal realities. Several share a common theme – Transfiguration.
About the author: The author read Latin, French and Theology at Cambridge, and was for 38 years Vicar of a Kent village, combined with teaching posts. He now lives near Guildford.
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From If Memory be Truth...
Introduction by the author
This book contains poems, hymns, meditative verse and notes, written over a period of several years. It takes its title from the first poem, “If Memory be Truth...” When I put these verses together, this emerged as a theme to give a pattern to the book. This is the thought of memory keeping the past alive in a changing world and in personal growth. This theme, which is the basis of the opening verses, recurs several times throughout the book, and is taken up more fully in the closing verses. Here the person of Christ is shown to gather up past, present and future.: Memory is given a specifically Christian sense in the Holy Eucharist, which itself is a focal point in the life of union with Christ. So having begun with human experiences of change and loss, we finish with a deeper experience of fulfilment.
Other verses and meditations deal with a number of themes including bereavement and questionings. A few hymns have been sung in our village churches: some meditations used at a Christian support ministry or in sermons. Their form is traditionally structured, including some sonnets, even where deep personal feeling is involved.
If Memory Be Truth. A Sonnet
I longed to see it once again – that scene
Of long-lost youth: new birth of life each spring,
Leaves laughing in a thousand shades of green,
Green hedges where a hundred birds could sing:
Cool paths through woods or by a lonely field,
And fish rejoicing in clear-watered stream;
Deep darkness by the night-time skies revealed:
Through passing years remembered in a dream.
At last I come: in grey old age return.
No hedges left: not birds’ but traffic’s sound:
Hard concrete road, where night-time headlights burn:
The stream polluted where no fish are found.
All things are changed – myself – the scenes of youth –
Yet all remain, if memory be truth.
This poem was first published in the Christmas 1998 issue of The Countryman magazine. It can be read on two levels. Firstly, it is obviously a piece of nostalgia, expressing grief at the loss of the natural and rural world through urbanisation. Secondly, it raises the philosophical questions of whether this vanished world still exists and if so, how? The concluding thought is that it remains within our memory and therefore as part of us.
In the well-known passage at the beginning of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, Proust described how as he drank tea, he was reminded of how his aunt used to give him a Madeleine dipped in tea – “Et tout d’un coup le souvenir m’est apparu...” All his early life came back into his mind. At the end, after the thought of the past brought into the present by images, encapsulated in a work of art, he wrote, “J’éprouvais un sentiment de fatigue et d’effroi à sentir que tout ce temps si long non seulement avait, sans une interruption, été vécu, pensée, sécreté par moi, mais qu’il était ma vie...”