A change of image

Well, the autumn scene was pleasant, but a bit impersonal and, as my wife put it, “Christian calendar-ish”. So in its place we have this panorama of Malham Cove, from my home county of Yorkshire.

So, it’s from my home county and it looks nice. OK, that’s the unpretentious reasons done with. The other reason is that it’s inspired by WH Auden’s poem, “In Praise of Limestone”. Michael Henderson quoted this poem at the end of a fascinating piece in Saturday’s Telegraph on Auden, “The clearest voice of the twentieth century”.

Opinion is divided as to whether the poem refers to the Italian landscape, or the Pennine landscape of Auden’s boyhood. I suspect there’s a bit of both in there – perhaps the sight of the Italian landscape (which seems to fit the middle section of the poem better, with its references to gods who can be “pacified by a clever line/Or a good lay”, operatic tenors etc.) called to mind the Yorkshire landscapes “that we, the inconstant ones, are consistently homesick for”.

The poem closes with the following lines, which (among other, more elevating effects, honest) immediately made me go out looking for panorama shots I could put on the top of this page:

The blessed will not care what angle they are regarded from,
      Having nothing to hide. Dear, I know nothing of
Either, but when I try to imagine a faultless love
      Or the life to come, what I hear is the murmur
Of underground streams, what I see is a limestone landscape.

As for the photograph itself, this is courtesy of Flickr user Peter Theakston, who has very graciously released his photos under a Creative Commons “Attribution” licence. As J Random Hermeneut put it recently, “See how easy blogging can be when we all learn to share?”

[Note: the linked version of the Auden poem contains a disastrous typo in the fourth line from the end of the second stanza. This should read, “So, when one of them goes to the bad, the way his mind works/Remains comprehensible”. Not “incomprehensible”. I mean…]

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8 Responses to A change of image

  1. CPA says:

    Limestone? Don’t you know that Bedford, Indiana, is the limestone capital of the world?!

  2. Theresa K. says:

    Wow! Your new blog is beautiful! I don’t usually use that word to describe blogs, but in your case it fits. That photo is stunning! And I love the gray border…very soothing. Nice work!

  3. CPA says:

    Tom:
    Kind of off topic, but I think it is typical that the Gledhill article used Luther as a mere convenient symbol for people who prefer doctrine — any doctrine — over unity. I think it is that purely symbolic use which is now one of the biggest stumbling blocks for people actually paying attention to the doctrine that Luther actually taught.

  4. Tom R says:

    Yes, JH, it’s OT – sorry. Delete or move if you wish. However, oftimes it be recorded in the traditions of our fathers that a comment on topic X in the Conf Ev combox for topic Y leads to a full front-page Haltonic post on topic X.

    Re Sis. Gledhill: Correct me if this impression is mistaken, but do “middle of the road” English “mere Anglicans” (as I take RG to be) have a horror of the name “Luther” (an a fortiori “Calvin”) that nearly equals their Fawkesian horror of “the Pope” and “the Jesuits”? They certainly seem to use these as terms of abuse – in contrast to liberal US Episkies, who downright love to liken themselves to the Reformers (eg, Spong’s book Here I Stand, and repeated calls for “a second Reformation…”).

  5. John H says:

    Hi Tom, links to the fragrant Gledhill’s byline pictu… um, oops, I mean writings, *cough*, are never off-topic round here. πŸ˜‰

    I don’t really know what the “mainstream” opinion on Luther is. For evangelicals, it’s a general aura of respect for him as rediscoverer of the gospel, and particularly for his commentaries on Romans and Galatians. Fortunately for Luther’s reputation among non-Augsburg evangelicals, most of them don’t realise what he believed about the sacraments, or else pass it off as a hangover of his medieval Catholicism – i.e. he’d have become a full-blown Calvinist if only he’d lived long enough to read the Institutes (or, failing that, The Briefing).

    Probably the middle-of-the-road view is that Luther is respected in a very general sense – his commemoration gets a mention in the Common Worship calendar, in a very low-key way – but people don’t see that he had to split the church, that he probably went a bit too far, and that it is simply splendid that Lutherans and Roman Catholics have now resolved all their differences in the Joint Declaration on Justification.

    *** crickets ***

  6. John H says:

    I should add that Calvin, by contrast, is regarded by all right-thinking Englishpeople as a convenient shorthand expressing all that is most detestable in religion: intolerance, narrow-mindedness, exclusivity, unattractive clothing, &c. Cf. Philip Pullman’s “Pope John Calvin” (boo! hiss!)

    So it’s not all bad. πŸ˜‰

  7. Tom R says:

    > “but people don’t see that he had to split the church”

    Hmm, that would fit with (what I take to be) the widespread Anglican view that Ecclesia Anglicana, unlike the Continentals, never actually “split”. There was rather some, ah, restructuring at the top but the whole body remained a glorious national unity. To the extent that Catholics on one side and Puritans/ Nonconformists on the other chose to split themselves off from the great tree, well, that was self-inflicted. Pullman’s choice of “Pope John Calvin”, as you say, sums up this very English horror of the heretic-burning garlic-eaters with their non-rights-respecting Roman law tradition. Pullers might as easily have pulled the name “Pope Torquemada” out of the hat, except that (a) fewer people would recognise the name and say “boo, hiss” on cue and (b) AD2000 comic [*] beat him to it with their alien-hating grand inquisitor from “Termight” (the planet formerly known as Earth).

    We Anglos (I include Australians in this mindset too) do seem to have inherited a stereotype of the Continental Reformation as rigid, legalistic, docrtrinally obsessed (rather than pragmatic and flexible), and iconoclastic: Cromwell and Co having done nothing to dispell this image by banning Christmas trees etc. However true this may be of Calvin and a fortiori Zwingli, it is utterly untrue of Lutheranism, yet we all get lumped in together. This leads to such perverse ironies as good old “mere Anglicans” actually saying, complacently “The Lutherans [sic] and the Calvinists vandalised centuries’ worth of great religious art”, and me retorting that a good deal more survived Luther and co than survived Henry VIII.

    There’s also “Will Roper” in A Man for All Seasons – dour, black-clad, teetotalling, joyless, and assuring “Thomas More” (loosely based on a real person of the same name, I’m told) that “The Church is corrupt! Doctor Luther’s proved that!”

    [*] Shouldn’t Garth Ennis et al have re-named their Judge Dredd flagship “2100 CE” just to stay abreast with the times?

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