Saturday, 24 April 2010

The Delights of Spring

After decades of being imprisoned in London by a long illness and missing April in the English countryside, I have been touring around sun-drenched Kentish nature reserves and National Trust gardens, in rapture over spring. Due to the harsh winter, this spring's attire is sheer delight. All the flowering trees, magnolias, camelias, May blossom, apple blossom are out at once, a mass of pinks, creams and whites. The profusion of blossom looks like wide skirted 1950s ladies in ball gowns. They are set this year, not against bare branches, but against herb green leaves.

Born on April 23, William Shakespeare is the Poet of April. He saw stunning springs which followed his childhood's freezing winters. He writes about these winters when "milk froze in the pail" and Dick the shepherd (a family friend) blows on his frozen hands. His younger sister Joan was sewn into her garments and greased with animal fat, for extra warmth. This is the explanation for the famous line "Greasy Joan doth keel the pot" (i.e. as a little girl, she helped her mother with her many chores, by stopping the evening meal in the pot burning over the fire).

In Shakespeare's play "Richard II", The Duke of Lancaster gives some wise advice to his son, Henry Bolingbroke (later Henry IV) , just banished from England about how to tackle depression in some foreign backwater, away from court, culture, home and London. He tells him to enjoy the beauty of Nature to the full:

"All places that the eye of heaven visits
Are to a wise man, ports and happy havens....
Look, what thy soul holds dear, imagine it
To lie that way thou go'st, not whence thou comest:
Suppose the singing birds, musicians,
The grass whereon thou tread'st the presence strew'd
The flowers fair ladies, and thy steps no more
Than a delightful measure of a dance;"
(Act 1, Scene 3)

In the same way, we must look at things that appear to knock us off course in life, such as illness, loss of career, broken relationships, rejections or sudden loss of wealth. In the same speech, Lancaster hints that we must always treat necessity as virtue.

We must seek and find God who can bless us anew, in another place. We must assume that our heart's desire, within the Providence of God, really lies in this new direction.

Finally, we must quicken our imagination to turn our new home into "another Eden", as delightful as the old, full of the delights of Spring.

While enjoying spring, on the car radio, I happened to be listening to fomer culture minister, David Mellor who hosts a very enjoyable music programme on "Classic FM". He was playing excerpts from Jon Lord's new harmonious CD, which perfectly matched the beauty of the day. Now surprisingly melodious, Jon Lord was once a member of the rock band "Deep Purple". Since 2002 he has concentrated on classical composition in the true traditional English vein.

For snatches of this composition, go to

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