Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux and Teacher of the Faith, is remembered in the Anglican calendar today.
“He (the Lord) is himself the Loveable in his essential being, and gives himself to be the object of our love. He wills our love for him to issue in our bliss, not to be void and vain. His love both opens up the way for ours and is our love’s reward. How kindly does he lead us in love’s way, how generously he returns the love we give, how sweet he is to those who wait for him! He is rich unto all that call upon him, for he can give them nothing better than himself. He gave himself to be our Righteousness, and keeps himself to be our great Reward. He sets himself to the refreshment of our souls, and spends himself to free the prisoners.”
One of the lovely things about having this rare “proper” English summer is the opportunity to relive some of those jaunts from my childhood years back in the sixties and seventies when there always seemed to be proper summers with, you know, sun.
A place the family visited almost every summer back then was Ingleton Falls, just over the border in North Yorkshire, and this year, as the sun had his hat on and we had a visitor up from The Smoke staying with us, we thought we’d head off to explore our memories and share her new adventure.
The familiar trail has been expanded into the next valley so that it is now a circular route with waterfalls in both gorges. There were lots of families doing the traditional thing of encouraging (begging) their kids to keep going as the walk gets steeper. Fortunately, the old green refreshment hut that used to sell home made lemonade is still there at the top of the gorge. Nowadays it sells mass produced pop and plastic ice-cream, unfortunately, but that seemed enough to keep the kids happy and caloried-up for the descent down the next gorge.
Although the weather had been quite dry for weeks, there was still plenty of force in the waterfalls and they are particularly beautiful on the ascent up Swilla Glen and Pecca Glen. At the top, of course, there’s Thornton Force and the large open pool which we used to use for cooling off back in the day.
All those waterfalls brought back the memory of studying Thomas Hardy at school and then during my first year at University. Though he was from the other end of the country, here’s his take on a memory of an English waterfall and, of course, love.
Under the Waterfall
“Whenever I plunge my arm, like this,
In a basin of water, I never miss
The sweet sharp sense of a fugitive day
Fetched back from the thickening shroud of grey.
Hence the only prime
And real love-rhyme
That I know by heart
And that leaves no smart,
Is the purl of a little valley fall
About three spans wide and two spans tall
Over a table of solid rock
And into a scoop of the self-same block;
The purl of a runlet that never ceases
In stir of kingdoms, in wars, in peaces;
With a hollow, boiling voice it speaks
And has spoken since hills were turfless peaks.”
“And why gives this the only prime
Idea to you of a real love-rhyme?
And why does plunging your arm in a bowl
Full of spring water, bring throbs to your soul?”
“Well, under the fall, in a crease of the stone,
Though where precisely none ever has known,
Jammed darkly, nothing to show how prized,
And by now with its smoothness opalised,
Is a drinking-glass:
For, down that pass,
My love and I
Walked under a sky
Of blue with a leaf-wove awning of green,
In the burn of August, to paint the scene,
And we placed our basket of fruit and wine
By the runlet’s rim, where we sat to dine;
And when we had drunk from the glass together,
Arched by the oak-copse from the weather,
I held the vessel to rinse in the fall,
Where it slipped, and sank, and was past recall,
Though we stooped and plumbed the little abyss
With long bared arms. There the glass still is.
And, as said, if I thrust my arm below
Cold water in basin or bowl, a throe
From the past awakens a sense of that time,
And the glass we used, and the cascade’s rhyme.
The basin seems the pool, and its edge
The hard smooth face of the brook-side ledge,
And the leafy pattern of china-ware
The hanging plants that were bathing there.
“By night, by day, when it shines or lours,
There lies intact that chalice of ours,
And its presence adds to the rhyme of love
Persistently sung by the fall above.
No lip has touched it since his and mine
In turn therefrom sipped lovers’ wine.”