Moravian Messenger November 2018
P. 1

The Lark Ascending sculpture in Malvern
Unity Heritage Tour 2018
(page 123)
The Lark Ascending
In 1914 Vaughan Williams began
setting George Meredith's poem
'The Lark Ascending' to music.
It seems to hold within the soaring notes the relationship between nature, God's creation, and man and the sky, heaven, and earth. In the next four traumatic years of war the image and reality of the natural world was to be a consolation for many whether they had a religious faith or not. In times of stress people turn to nature for solace. When the world that is known is shattered and the civil framework changes then people seek contentment beyond the strife of arms and ideologies in the quiet places and continuity of creation.
We often look back on the 'war to end all wars' almost with a sense that it existed as a military confrontation in isolation from the still on-going world of nature that continued around it. Yet spring, summer, autumn and winter continued within the rhythm of nature despite the bloody scar that ran across Europe from Flanders to the Swiss border.
The First World War is remembered by many for its outpouring of poetry but after the initial burst of themes around Imperial glory the poets from all ranks turned to nature to express themselves. Birds in particular became symbols of conflict, of life, of death and finally of resurrection. The images ranged from the sky lark heralding early dawn to the
flashing destructive magpie. As dawn broke on the 1st July 1916, the thunderous barrage along the Somme and for a few brief seconds of silence before the whistles blew to advance, Lt William Johnston heard the song, 'the haunting notes of the sky-lark'. He felt it was a talisman as it refused to quit its habitat in 'no man's land' despite the terror and destruction around it.
The troops produced a local paper 'The Wipers Times' as the local town of Ypres was more commonly known. The area was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting on the Western Front culminating in the horror of the third battle known as 'Passchendaele'. While most of the paper's contents poked fun at the military establishment and petty regulations much of the correspondence to the editor reflected some deeper feelings held by the troops. A 'lover of nature' wrote:
'Sir - as I was going over the top last week I heard the call of the cuckoo. I claim to be the first to have heard it this spring and should like to know if any of your readers can assert that they heard it before me'.
For many the birds were links with home as most were common to both England and France. We assume that most of the armies were drawn from urban areas but the cities and towns of the era were fairly compact, not yet sprawling into the
Continues inside on page 122
Greenbelt 2018: Three different views
(page 124-125)
Second in a four part series about the Moravian motto
(pages 126)
Heritage Days Reports
(page 128-129)

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