Tuesday, 2 June 2009

The Bells

The city has been full of church bells this morning. That happens sometimes, and I can never exactly tell why - is it just practice, or a special occasion? As far as I can tell, this is an entirely ordinary Tuesday morning. But at one moment the bells were ringing from the tower of Lincoln library (formerly All Saints' Church) and at another from Carfax (formerly St Martin's), and from unidentified places all over the city. It was one of those mornings when scraps of poetry swim into the memory: first, Hopkins' description of Oxford as 'bell-swarmèd', then, more distantly, of George Herbert on 'Prayer': 'Church bells beyond the stars heard...' In all that poem's feast of images, I think the one about church bells is my favourite. Like prayer, like remembered poetry, bells say: Look up. Raise your head, and look beyond.

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