From the church of Keswick St John, poet Stewart Henderson leads a reflection on endurance using the experiences and writings of Lakeland poet, William Wordsworth.
The poet Stewart Henderson leads a reflection on endurance from the church of Keswick St John in the Lake District. Drawing on the life and works of the poet William Wordsworth, the service features music from David and Yvonne Lyon and includes their songs "Enjoy not Endure", "As we follow you" and "Vesper Sky". As well as poetry from Wordsworth and Henderson, there is a reading from Psalm 121. Hymns include Jesus calls us o'er the tumult (St Andrew) and Great is thy faithfulness (Great is thy faithfulness). The church choir, directed by John Cooper Green, will sing the anthem "He that shall endure to the end" from Mendelssohn's Elijah and the service is led by the vicar, the Reverend Charles Hope. The producer is Janet McLarty.
This script cannot exactly reflect the transmission, as it was prepared before the service was broadcast. It may include editorial notes prepared by the producer, and minor spelling and other errors that were corrected before the radio broadcast.
It may contain gaps to be filled in at the time so that prayers may reflect the needs of the world, and changes may also be made at the last minute for timing reasons, or to reflect current events.
Opening Announcement [from Continuity] (For programmes on Radio 3, 4 and 4 Extra)
BBC Radio 4. It’s ten past eight and time now for Sunday Worship. This week, the poet, Stewart Henderson, joins the choir and congregation of Keswick St John in the Lake District. He explores the idea of endurance as expressed through the writings and life of the local poet, William Wordsworth. The service is led by the vicar, the Reverend Charles Hope and opens with the song “As we follow you” sung by David & Yvonne Lyon
Music: David & Yvonne Lyon As we follow you
Rev. Charles Hope:
Down the side of our church flows a cascade of bright red flowers which were placed there for Remembrance. What began as a knitting project to produce some five thousand poppies six months ago, grew into some twelve and a half thousand poppies knitted by people from local churches, in the town and connected to the town. All of these poppies were hand-tied to a huge camouflage net which is now suspended from the North East corner of our church.
It is like a huge red scar, almost a river of blood, visible from the top of Keswick’s local fell, Latrigg a mile and a half away. Seeing it reminds me of the Isaac Watts hymn ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’ and the verse ‘sorrow and love flow mingling down’. Jesus Christ endured his pain and anguish.
At Remembrance-tide we remember those who endured death, loss, injury and pain through war. But today we can broaden this and contemplate the loads, burdens and pains that many carry, that has nothing to do with war, but to do with life and how it impacts on us all, be that of grief, illness, violence, abuse, exploitation, bullying, or isolation.
But the cascade flows down the side of a church that is a symbol of life, eternal life. For Jesus endured to death, trusting the Father to raise him to life, eternal life. So through the grace of the Father resurrection hope is available to all who come seeking, wherever and however they come, whatever burdens they are carrying, whatever they endure.
The choir sing the anthem ‘He that shall endure to the end shall be saved’ from Mendelsohn’s ‘Elijah’:
Anthem: Choir/Organ He that shall endure to the end shall be saved “Elijah”
Rev. Charles Hope:
We worship, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; source of forgiveness, grace, life and love.
From our sins of self-centred pride, ambition, failure to challenge wrong doing in ourselves or others;
All: Good Lord deliver us
From our failure to trust in your unfailing love, our failure to have courage to preserve
All: Good Lord deliver us
From our self-doubt, our failure to persevere, our smallness of your vision for us
All: Good Lord deliver us
May Almighty God have mercy upon us, forgive us our sins, strengthen us in all godly living, give us that vision of his kingdom and bring us to life eternal, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Hymn: Choir/cong/organ Jesus calls us o’er the tumult St Andrew
Reading: Carol Henderson Psalm 121
A song of ascents.
1I lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will my help come?
2My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
3He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
6The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time on and forevermore.
Rev. Charles Hope:
It is a privilege to welcome David and Yvonne Lyon whose music we have heard and will hear again; and Stuart and Carole Henderson here to St John’s church in Keswick today. They have collaborated here in the past as part of the ‘Un-Conventional’ bit of the Keswick Convention. And in music and words [they] are exploring the links between faith and life and how people endure in the face of personal tragedy.
Today, Stewart, poet, writer and broadcaster, will reflect on how the great Lakeland poet, William Wordsworth, handled the experience of grief and loss.
The Lake District was recently awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. It’s easy to look at these beautiful fells and valleys and see them solely as objects of natural beauty. But the history of these hills is also one of human endeavour, hard work and endurance to overcome many hardships – be that of the monks who farmed these valleys till the reformation, or the miners coming from Germany at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth the first, to mine wad(?), then graphite and other minerals, or the fell sheep farmers of today with those of the tourist industries.
Human activity and endeavour has left its mark on the landscape.
But through it, the beauty of God at work is seen in the interplay of nature and human activity. God’s grace is strong enough to overcome; God’s grace is there to create and recreate.
Stewart Henderson Endurance in fraught times with Wordsworth
I think I’m on fairly safe ground when I suggest it was the late 18th and early C19 Lakeland poets and journal keepers, notably, William Wordsworth, Robert Southey, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Wordsworth’s, devoted sister, Dorothy who drafted the first, unintentional, Lake District tourist guides.
Their vivid descriptions presented ascending views of the fells to the emerging, literate, Home Counties middle classes. The Lake District as a vast, open-air cloister of rambling contemplation became the topography’s USP, as in Unique Selling Point. I immediately apologise for using the text speak acronym USP. Such bland reductionism. Far rather Wordsworth’s elevated praise –
Poem: Carol Henderson
‘There is an Eminence, of these our hills…’ *1
There is an Eminence,--of these our hills
The last that parleys with the setting sun;
We can behold it from our orchard-seat;
And, when at evening we pursue out walk
Along the public way, this Peak, so high
Above us, and so distant in its height,
Is visible; and often seems to send
Its own deep quiet to restore our hearts.
The meteors make of it a favourite haunt:
The star of Jove, so beautiful and large
In the mid heavens, is never half so fair
As when he shines above it. 'Tis in truth
The loneliest place we have among the clouds.
And She who dwells with me, whom I have loved
With such communion, that no place on earth
Can ever be a solitude to me,
Hath to this lonely Summit given my Name.
With the early Lakeland poems acting as beguiling brochures, the great trek North from the more prosperous hamlets of London, in spine juddering coaches, began, without the rehabilitating services of an osteopath at journey’s end.
Ask the ordinary person to name a line of Wordsworth’s poetry, and inevitably wandering lonely as a cloud and traipsing through daffodils would be the pastoral cliché offered, possibly misquoted; yet, now sounding, rather removed from the clatter of our frenetic world.
However Wordsworth lived through arduous and rapidly changing times. His was a paradise of contrasts. He and his family experienced turmoil and the worst loss imaginable. Wordsworth’s inspirational endurance could well serve as a helpmeet for us in our times.
First, some background. Wordsworth’s poetic reputation could be said to have accelerated, along with Coleridge’s, through the joint publication of their radical, experimental ‘Lyrical Ballads’ in 1798. At that stage William and his sibling, Dorothy were living near to Coleridge in Somerset. And although Coleridge’s ‘The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’ became the hit single from the book, Wordsworth, the 28 year old, poet-visionary, then admiring of the French Revolution, was, through his poems considering God as the profound power reverberating through Nature’s ‘beauteous forms’. That recognition of Divine configuration became a poetic constant.
Eventually returning to his native Cumberland and Westmoreland; by 1800, Wordsworth and sibling Dorothy had moved into Dove Cottage in Grasmere.
Come 1811, Wordsworth was patriarch of an extended household, including Dorothy. They both had known sorrow and separation as children, their parents dying when they were still quite young. In adulthood, grief bound these two orphans tight. Wordsworth had married a childhood friend, Mary Hutchinson in 1802. By the time, nine years later, they had all moved into the damp, and detrimental, Old Rectory, in Grasmere, William and Mary were parents to five children.
Six years before, Wordsworth’s brother, John, had drowned off the coast, near Weymouth. Alas, for the Wordsworth family, two infant names would be added to the archive of the deceased.
On the morning of the 5th June, 1812, three months short of her fourth birthday Catherine Wordsworth died of ‘convulsions’.
Recent academic research suggests that Catherine may well have had Down Syndrome *2 as was revealed in a Radio 4 documentary, last year. That genetic condition not identified until over fifty years later by the pioneer physician, John Langdon Down.
As for William, his bereavement sonnet, the intense ‘Surprised By Joy’, groaned from his and Mary’s vale of loss. In it, written some time after Catherine’s death, Wordsworth records a brief moment of cheer, only to realise; his daughter is not there to share it with him. The poem is a universal consolation, as such; contemplating the impotent wish to share a mortal delight with a departed loved one.
Poem: Carol Henderson:
Surprised by joy – impatient as the wind
I turned to share the transport – Oh! With whom
But thee, long buried in the silent tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?
Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind –
But how could I forget thee? - Through what power,
Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
To my most grievous loss? – That thought's return
Was the worse pang that sorrow ever bore,
Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,
Knowing my heart's best treasure was no more;
That neither present time nor years unborn
Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.*3
Six months later, on the 1st December, the Wordsworth’s six year old son, Thomas, succumbed to inflammation of the lungs. His mother, Mary was besieged by grief. So too was, her usually, self-contained husband. The day after Thomas’s death, Wordsworth wrote from Grasmere to his friend, the-soon-to-be Poet Laureate, Robert Southey [Pro: South-ee], who was resident at Greta [Pro: Greeta] Hall, here in Keswick.
For myself dear Southey, I dare not say in what state of mind I am; I loved the Boy with the utmost love of which my soul is capable, and he is taken from me. Yet, in the agony of my spirit in surrendering such a treasure I feel a thousand times richer than if I had never possessed it. God comfort and save you…and us all from a repetition of such trials. - O Southey, feel for me! *4
Wordsworth’s tribulation became endurable, I would suggest, through his belief in, and, at times, clinging to, the transcendent and loving Divine. ‘We are laid asleep in body, and become a living soul’, to quote from his poem, Tintern Abbey.
Wordsworth’s mystical immersion in the symphonies of nature, and his yielding recognition to the celestial Conductor of it all, challenges us, the C21 turbulent tribe, press-ganged and restrained by materialism, and beset by agitation, and calamities. The poet counsels us to be pliant before ‘a ‘motion and a spirit….that impels, and rolls through all things’..*5 That we should be overwhelmed, consoled and surprised by the Infinite Maker of joy, whilst we endure, perhaps even similar to Wordsworth, our own harrowing, and soaring, seasons.
Music: David & Yvonne Lyon Vesper Sky
Poem: Carol Henderson Breakages *6
Copyright c Stewart Henderson 2016. Used with the author’s permission.
Hymn: Choir/cong/organ Thy hand O God has guided All
Rev. Charles Hope
We come in prayer to a God who desires humanity to be made well and whole,
for society to be healed and flourishing,
in which all are valued as made in the image of God;
We bring to God our troubled world, broken in so many places by war and conflict;
We bring to God our troubled country unsure and divided on so many issues
We bring to God our troubled lives, of people hurting, grieving, struggling
Good God hear the cries of all your people, give courage, wisdom, vision and strength for us to build and work together for your kingdom of justice and peace here on earth
We hold these and all our thoughts and prayers in our minds as we listen to the song ‘Enjoy not Endure’ sung by David and Yvonne Lyon:
David & Yvonne Lyon Enjoy not endure
Rev. Charles Hope
We draw our thoughts and prayers together in the words Jesus taught us to pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation:
But deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom,
The Power, and the glory,
For ever and ever. Amen.
Hymn: Great is thy faithfulness All 2
Rev. Charles Hope
May God give you
His grace to have vision;
His vision to have courage
His courage to endure
His endurance to give you the desire to run the race of life
and finally come to into his presence with joy and thanksgiving;
And the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be upon you and surround you wherever you are, this day and always.
*1 – ‘There is an Eminence….’ by William Wordsworth. Probably composed around 1800. In the poem, Wordsworth seems to be going for ‘feel, the spirit of the thing’, as opposed to a literal view of the mountain from the garden at Dove Cottage. Over forty years (1843) after the poem’s composition, he wrote to his friend, Isabella Fenwick. It is not accurate that the eminence here alluded to could be seen from our orchard-seat. It arises above the road by the side of Grasmere Lake, towards Keswick [a town several miles to the north], and its name is Stone-Arthur.
*2 - The Little Chinese Maiden, presented by Grevel Lindop. Produced by Matt Thompson, Rockethouse for BBC Radio 4. Tx: 11 November, 2017. Grevel Lindop was former Professor of Romantic and Early Victorian Studies @ the University of Manchester.
*3 – ‘Surprised By Joy….’ by William Wordsworth. First published in ‘Poems; Volume II’, in 1815. When written, Wordsworth gives no clues, but various leading academics such as Carol Rumens, Professor of Creative Writing at The University of Hull, and FRSL, is, and are of the opinion that Wordsworth is mourning ‘his missing Catherine’, or possibly, a dual grieving in which he remembers his son, Thomas, too.
*4 – Transcript of Wordsworth’s letter to Robert Southey, written on the Wednesday evening of 2nd December, 1812
Symptoms of the measles appeared upon my Son Thomas last Thursday; he was most favorable held till Tuesday, between ten and eleven at that hour was particularly lightsome and comfortable; without any assignable cause a sudden change took place, an inflammation had commenced on the lungs which it was impossible to check and the sweet Innocent yielded up his soul to God before six in the evening. He did not appear to suffer much in body, but I fear something in mind as he was of an age to have thought much upon death a subject to which his mind was daily led by the grave of his Sister....
For myself dear Southey I dare not say in what state of mind I am; I loved the Boy with the utmost love of which my soul is capable, and he is taken from me - yet in the agony of my spirit in surrendering such a treasure I feel a thousand times richer than if I had never possessed it. God comfort and save you and all our friends and us all from a repetition of such trials. - O Southey feel for me! If you are not afraid of the complaint, I ought to have said if you have had it come over to us!
*5 – ‘Lines Composed A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting The Banks Of The Wye, During A Tour, July 13, 1798’ by William Wordsworth. First published in ‘Lyrical Ballads’, 1798.
*6 Copyright c Stewart Henderson 2016. Used with the author’s permission. Not to be downloaded, distributed, or reproduced in any form whatsoever without the author’s specific permission.
The poem Breakages was first published in ‘A Poet’s Notebook...with new poems...obviously’ by Stewart Henderson. Published by Lion Hudson, 2018. The poem also appears on the CD ‘Vesper Sky’, read by Carol Henderson. Book, and CD both available from www.stewart-henderson.com.