On this bleak winter day, we’re searching for inspiration from the English writer, Thomas Hardy. He was raised Anglican and for a while, he flirted with converting to the Baptists, but decided against it. In reality, he questioned the traditional Christian view of God his entire life. But he had an affinity for Christian liturgy and church rituals, especially in rural communities.
Here’s a piece that gives us a glimpse into Hardy’s fascination with church life. It’s titled “In Church” and it’s about a girl who catches a peek at the parish priest after Sunday service and sees him re-enacting the gestures he used in the pulpit.
By Thomas Hardy
“And now to God the Father”, he ends,
And his voice thrills up to the topmost tiles:
Each listener chokes as he bows and bends,
And emotion pervades the crowded aisles.
Then the preacher glides to the vestry-door,
And shuts it, and thinks he is seen no more.
The door swings softly ajar meanwhile,
And a pupil of his in the Bible class,
Who adores him as one without gloss or guile,
Sees her idol stand with a satisfied smile
And re-enact at the vestry-glass
Each pulpit gesture in deft dumb-show
That had moved the congregation so.
FOR ADDITIONAL READING: See Thomas Hardy: The Complete Poems, edited by James Gibson
Some more inspirational nuggets for today:
- On this day in 1810, the French church annulled the marriage of Napoleon and the empress, Josephine. When they met in 1795, it was love at first sight for Napoleon and the two began a passionate affair. They married a year later, but Napoleon’s family was less than enthusiastic about the union because Josephine was six years older than Napoleon and a widow who brought two children into the marriage. When it became clear that their marriage wouldn’t result in children for Napoleon, they agreed to part ways so he could produce an heir. But even after the annulment, Napoleon insisted she keep the title of empress. He said, “It is my will that she retain the rank and title of empress, and especially that she never doubt my sentiments, and that she ever hold me as her best and dearest friend.”
- Today is also the birthday of Ethan Allen. He’s best known for leading the Green Mountain Boys to capture Fort Ticonderoga from the British early in the Revolutionary War. But Allen was also a self-styled theologian who was highly critical of traditional religion. It was a belief that didn’t sit well with his first wife, Mary Brownson, who was an enthusiastic Christian and considered Allen a difficult man to live with. Instead, Allen promoted a sort of natural religion and considered himself a Deist like Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. According to witnesses, he stopped the wedding ceremony to his second wife when the officiant spoke the phrase, “agreeable to the laws of God.” And he didn’t allow the wedding to proceed until the officiant eventually agreed that the word “god” would mean the god of nature and not the god of any organized religion. I guess you could say it was a deal-breaker.
That’s today’s Spiritual Almanac. For more of Thomas Hardy’s poetry, check out Thomas Hardy: The Complete Poems, edited by James Gibson. You can find a link to it above.
Be kind, take good care and we’ll see you soon.