Tuesday 12 November 2013

May Love bid him welcome

I really enjoyed listening to Start the Week yesterday. It was everything thoughtful, engaging radio should be - which makes a change. 

Plus it marked Andrew Marr's return to the programme after his illness.

Its focus was on the poetry of George Herbert. That's partly why I listened to it - as Herbert is my favourite poet. 

The other reason was that Sir John Tavener, a composer who has fascinated me for well over twenty years, was one of the guests. I was curious to hear how Andrew Marr and he would engage with each other.

Herbert, as a poet, was wholly preoccupied with matters of faith. The only love poetry he wrote involved him and God.

Despite being a non-believer himself, Andrew Marr has clearly fallen head-over-heels in love with the poetry of George Herbert during his recent illness and this edition of Start the Week explored the virtues of Herbert's poetry and how it is that non-religious people (like him, and like me) can find so much in his beautiful, dramatic, prayer-like poems. 

That, in turn, was the launch pad for a more general discussion of faith, poetry and music. 

The programme's guests were Herbert biographer John Drury (who sounded uncannily like the late, great Peter Jones), novelist Jeanette Winterson and Sir John Tavener. All were fellow enthusiasts for the poetry of George Herbert.

I was more moved than I expected to be because of the frailty of Sir John's voice. He spoke about how recovered his faith in God - and in music - after coming perilously close to death. So close that his heart stopped four times.

I was wondering whether to blog about this or not, but events decided the question for me.

Tonight came the news that Sir John Tavener has died.

Like Thomas Hardy kneeling and hoping in front of the Christmas oxen, I can but say: May flights of angels sing him to his rest.


  1. I agree.
    My highlight was Jeanette Winterson, who spoke well about her early days and the need for proper education, working class serious study(not the dumbed-down stuff peddles in schools and on telly)-and the need to grasp the KJV Bible if you want to understand Shakespeare.
    Didn`t expect that-so one of my cliches about her crashed...which is surely what good programmes do at their best.

    1. Yes, I was taken with Jeanette Winterson's contribution too. It chimed with me because my dad was very much of that frame of mind too, and instilled the same ethos in me.


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