Harvest Time or Be It Ever So Out of the Way*

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It is a dreary day at Whirled’s End and the news from Australia is ‘not good’, so, the Squire has retreated into the Library to work on his paper, The Bowling of George Herbert 1607 – 31

It has for some time been clear to His Grace that Herbert was an avid cricketer. His research, much of it on the ground, reveals that as a youth Herbert turned out for an early Middlesex XI, tweaking the ball deceptively on the flags outside St Margaret’s.  There are also College records (sadly now lost) of Herbert bowling for Trinity on the Old Field. And there are reliable accounts of the old parson, in full season, enjoying an over or two for Fugglestone-cum-Bemerton C.C. followed by a little music at midnight with fellow players in the Herbert Arms, Wilton.

“Surely, Third Man, cricket provides the lesser but no less insightful metaphor in his late poem, Coloss 3 for 3.”

“Good figures indeed, Your Grace.”

“Who but a wristy, tweaking bowler of grubs would have in his kitbag words and phrases such as ‘express’, ‘double motion’, ‘straight’, ‘hid’, ‘obliquely bend’, ‘wrapt in flesh’, ‘tends to earth’, ‘winds’, ‘that still one eye’, ‘aim and shoot’, ‘that which is on high’ or ‘Quitting with daily labour all My pleasure’?”

“Ah, the joy of a 7fer, Sir!”

“You must agree, they are the very stuff of bowling acumen where accuracy, surprise and deception mark out the good from the ordinary.”

But deeper still the Squire discerns the hidden subtlety of flight, the cloak of disguise that tricks the eye; reality and ruse, the imaginary and the revelatory, the obvious and the hidden.

“Here before your eyes a simple game of bat and ball; through the lens of which you may, with the careful watchfulness of the batsman, distinguish the arc of life and so  pass, like the sun skipping across the sky, to meaning, and gather in ‘at harvest an eternall Treasure’

Coloss 3:3

Our life is hid with Christ in God

My words & thoughts do both expresse this notion,
That Life hath with the sun a double motion.
The first Is straight, and our diurnall friend,
The other Hid and doth obliquely bend.
One life is wrapt In flesh, and tends to earth:
The other winds towards Him, whose happie birth
Taught me to live here so, That still one eye
Should aim and shoot at that which Is on high:
Quitting with daily labour all My pleasure,
To gain at harvest an eternall Treasure.

 

*John Ruskin to his mother, “the fact is, I really am getting more pious than I was, owing primarily to George Herbert, who is the only religious person I ever could understand or agree with, and secondarily to Fra Angelico and Benozzo Gozzoli, who make one believe everything they paint, be it ever so out of the way.” Quoted by John Drury, Music at Midnight, The Life and Poetry of George Herbert. 2013

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