I stopped believing many years ago

even in non-belief, so why sit here

this winter morning, listening

to Sunday Worship on the radio

from St Martin-in-the-Fields? And to a choir

not so much singing as inheriting


the chanted fables generations pass

each to the next, as though they were handrails

into the future and could guide

us through a lifetime in which nothing lasts

except their solace – a thought which both appals

and fascinates, for what if such well-tried


harmonies say something tuned and true

about the way we can atone with age,

how we should be with one another,

how I both could and should have been with you,

and could still be even at this settled stage

of our long discord? What if this chance encounter


is not mere chance, but one of those rare moments

which offer insight into how the world

is more than all we see or hear

or touch – some inner, outer, spiritual endowment,

an unexpected cadence overheard,

which everyone, and everywhere, could share?


So let the old words comfort if they can –

they’ve done good service down the troubled years

helping us to come to terms

with what usually seems not just absurd, unplanned,

but a void our shocked imagination fears

and that unsung language only silence learns.



First published in The Spectator, 15 April 2017