Sursum Corda | G. A. Studdert Kennedy
What kind of day did you have so far? Mine was productive, though not the way I thought it would be. Here’s one of my favorite Studdert Kennedy poems. It seemed appropriate, given the state of things today.
There are cowslips in the clearing,
With God’s green and gold ablaze,
And the distant hills are nearing,
Through a sun-kissed sea of haze.
There’s a lilt of silver laughter
In the brook upon its way,
With the sunbeams stumbling after
Like the children at their play.
There’s a distant cuckoo calling
To the lark up in the sky
As his song comes falling, falling
To his nest—a happy sigh.
Sursum Corda! How the song swells
From the woods that smile and nod.
Sursum Corda! Ring the bluebells
Lift ye up your hearts to God.
From The Unutterable Beauty: The Collected Poetry of G. A. Studdert Kennedy, pp. 95-96
First published by Hodder and Stoughton Limited (London, 1927)
Published in 2017 by Pendlebury Press (Manchester, U.K., August 2017)
*Sursum Corda -“Lift up your hearts.” The opening phrase of a traditional Christian liturgy dating back to the 3rd century. Normally used before celebrating the Eucharist.
Can there be beauty in a warzone? Especially with people dying all around, often in prolonged agony.
Studdert Kennedy, also known as Woodbine Willie, wrote this poem during World War I. He served as a chaplain, witnessing and participating in the laments, loneliness, pain and deaths of British soldiers. He dealt with the horror of war by writing poetry.
Many of his poems are heartbreaking. They deal with harsh realities of early 20th century warfare on the ground, and the daily struggles of human beings separated from their families. They also include some reality talk with God. This poem, like a number of others, found something to celebrate. A reason to hope, despite the daily suffering and dying that surrounded everyone.
Even though nature can’t solve all our problems, it’s there for the taking. A gift. Just look around. Lift up the eyes of your heart! In your memory, listen to the birds and admire the bluebells. They’re sending us an invitation to look and listen to the larger picture of nature, not just to our own small worlds.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 August 2020
Image of cowslips found at first-nature.com