The Kingdom in the Isles
And when thy death comes, Master, let us bear it
The Widow in the Bye Street,
John Masefield (May 1912)
The Poet and the City
In a cool olive grove far away there is a tomb. On a wooden cross a Greek hand had written: 'Here lies the servant of God, sub-lieutenant in the English Navy, who died for the deliverance of Constantinople from the Turks'. This was the tomb of the English poet and patriot Rupert Brooke, who died and was buried on the Greek island of Skyros these many years ago on St. George's Day 1915.
In 1914, following a full century of peace since Waterloo in 1815, Great Britain was called upon to bring peace to the European Powers once more. But Great Britain was no longer in a position to control the passions and ambitions of the Europeans grown strong and it would have to call first on its Empire and then on the United States to help it fulfil its duty and achieve a balance of interests in Europe. And this, alas, not once but twice. And this is the story of Scrapfaggot Green.
The Witch and the Bulldozer
When the Americans came to our aid a second time, they came first to England. In the village of Great Leighs, not far from where I lived as a child, some extraordinary things happened in the first days of October 1944. In the church of St. Mary the Virgin the tenor bell tolled in the early morning and the bell-ropes played reverse chimes on Sundays; the church clock struck midnight at 2.30 a.m. and lost an hour each day; corn stooks disappeared and were found in adjoining meadows; a farmer's haystacks were pushed over in the night; cows in calf gave premature birth; the hens stopped laying; sheep strayed through unbroken hedges; geese disappeared without explanation; the landlord of The Dog and Gun woke up one morning and found a large boulder, appeared from nowhere and weighing nearly two hundredweights, outside his door. The villagers declared that their misfortunes had begun the day when American bulldozers had widened the road at Scrapfaggot Green in the centre of the village. In order to widen it, the Americans had moved a two-ton stone that had marked the remains of a seventeenth century witch who had been buried with a stake through her chest at the crossroads there. Indeed Scrapfaggot is a corruption of Scratchfaggot, meaning witch. And so it was that at midnight on 11 October the villagers replaced the stone, orienting it east and west in the traditional manner. The phenomena ceased.
Men had unwittingly stirred up the past. What had happened at Scrapfaggot Green had happened in other ways everywhere. History does not sleep once it is awoken and the dead do not slumber once they are stirred. The booming of the guns in Flanders fields and northern France, in the Dardanelles and then all over the world had awoken those whom men had thought long since dead. The Kaiser's War and Hitler's War revealed all the baseness of men and destroyed all thoughts of nobility and love and beauty in them. And men have justified their own vice by recalling the vice of those who lived in ages past. And thus they have fouled the sanctuary of Church and Nation.
But in stirring up the past, men have stirred up not only the witches and the many past evils of all that period of the Occupation, the Occupation by the enemy of hearts and souls and minds. They have also stirred up the memories of the time before that Occupation by German and Dutch and French and Norman king, when we were yet a sovereign nation with a native dynasty, the time of Austin, Edwin, Oswald, Cedd, Chad, Cuthbert, Audrey, Hilda, Mildred, Theodore, Benedict, Bede, Swithin, Alfred, Edgar, Edward, Edith, Dunstan, Alphege and all the holy ones of God. And they call us back to the Old England and forward to the New England, a New Anglo-Celtic Kingdom in the Isles, a New Britannic Kingdom founded not on Babylon but on Jerusalem, not on Capital but on Nationhood, on our identities in the tripersonal unity of the Holy Trinity, to be an example to those in centralising, suffocating Europe who have lost their way, to be 'a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel'.
The Kingdom and the Isles
Oh, cease ye bells forlorn, We have forgotten Jerusalem
A Sacred Dialogue, J. E. Flecker,
Because we have lost faith in Jerusalem, because we have lost the vision of Jerusalem, Paradise has died in our souls. Beauty has gone out of our lives for we have died spiritually. Life has meaning only when it is inspired by Beauty, for Beauty, being the touch of the grace and holiness of God, the outward expression of Love, is the essential reality and meaning of Life. Where there is no Beauty, Life is senseless and deathly, we become living corpses, beings dead in spirit. This is why modern man declares that his life is absurd and that for him God is dead. Modern Life is the expression of Death, for it has refused Beauty, refused the Spirit, the very Giver of Life, 'Who proceedeth from the Father'. Man, being made in the image and the likeness of God, is called to Beauty, is made for Beauty. But to attain Beauty in our lives today, suffering is inevitable, for suffering is the providential source of repentance, of spiritual cleansing.
Only this cleansing will grow in us the spiritual awareness and conscience which will bring in us the moral renewal which we so need. Only through this inner cleansing, this whitening of our souls, will the Life-giving Spirit and so holiness of God return to us. Only then will Beauty relive in us, will the Jerusalem we have forgotten be born and the Babylon where all we captives weep die. Only then will our native land grow into an image of what she really is in her hallowed ones in Heaven. Only then will the visible Kingdom in the earthly Isles begin to resemble the invisible Kingdom in the heavenly Isles. And this will be only when this whole land says together: 'Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven'. And this will be the Paradise in our souls, which those poets of before once sensed but did not know how to attain. This will be the Kingdom in the Isles, for this will be the day when Christ is in our midst.
More details of the book "The Lighted Way" and where to buy it, can be found on The English Orthodox Trust page of this site.