A thing of beauty is a
joy for ever
– John Keats
I follow the Path of the Rose. I try to walk the Way. Like the pilgrims, seekers and mystics of old. A hidden path somewhere between the soul
and the land. An illuminated manuscript. Psychic vision can truly bridge
imagination and the earth. I've heard
many speak of this Way. I can always
tell who has actually walked it. In
rhythm and cadence. As history, myth and
symbolism begin to share space and time hymns of strange union can be heard. Perpetual choirs. Obelisks rising from the living waters of the rose, as I witnessed just a short way from the site of Powles Crosse. At the turret where I prayed and gave thanks. But I know there’s more to see. The way is endless, and the grail is gathered
from the halo of the hidden. That
liminal light at perception's edge. The
spiritual sun. Laurentum & the
Rose wasn’t St Paul’s first vessel of living waters. There was another fountain at the cathedral before it, gifted
to another place. An open Priory. A green and pleasant land. I sense that I need to go there, and walk. Just as I walked the ruins of another Priory
at the groves of St John.
Even as my journey begins I notice something significant. The first two sentences from a poem by Keats. Someone has affixed them to the lintels above
these travellers. It’s an excerpt from
Endymion. The shepherd locked in
dreaming raptures of Selene's ghost-flower. For a moment I’m taken aback. But then I smile at those words, realising it’s
a beneficent augur. A counter-point to
darker worries beneath the surface of these waters. I think of Kiskuh. Phantoms and witches of the sea. Shelley, Lamia and the banks of the Via Regis.
But no, this is a gentle smile from somewhere.
A beautiful well-wishing. I vow to treasure the joy. The green spaces of the Priory are quiet,
except for the music of children playing happily together in the empty fountain
of St Paul’s. They have climbed into its
high stone basin. It seems a delight for
them. Yet, about the rim of the old
fountain are many candles. Flowers and
memorials for lost loved ones. The children
seem oblivious to these solemn offerings.
Indeed, I notice a fallen bouquet of dried flowers beneath a bench, some
distance away. It’s tied with a bow of
purple silk. I intend to document many
portions of this path. This walking of
the way. The Rose is near. I can
feel her. I have no laurels to mark this
particular victory, but I leave the flowers resting against an emblem depicting
the crossed swords of the Apostle. I
light one of the many new candles left so thoughtfully there. Not a light of mourning but a flame of life. Water & Fire. I feel awakened. I thank the spring and leave the park to
find the path again.
It's shortly after this that I unexpectedly stumble upon St Mary's
Tower. I feel a sense of mild surprise
at the name and I’m intrigued by its haunting similarity to St Michael's
Tower at the summit of Glastonbury Tor. I had no conscious knowledge this was here. Still, I think of subtle bridges between
places and times. I recall an old line of poetry from
William Dunbar: London, thou art the flower of cities all. For a while I wander the open churchyard in a
strange reverie. There are tombs and
gravestones all about. I give thanks to
God to have come upon this threshold place.
The Path is with me, I realise. A
choir in my breast, perpetual. For just
a moment I stop to rest against the edge of a large tomb in an effort to gather
my thoughts. There, atop the stone lid,
is a book. Wrapped carefully in plastic to shield it from the rain.
I have no idea how long it has been
waiting there. I unwrap the gift with fascinated trepidation. Something
is definitely with me, just beyond the edge of ordinary sight. The gift is a book of London folk-tales,
written for children. I almost laugh as
I read its title, recalling the smiling little ones in the Priory’s fountain. I glance through the magical book,
delighted. It’s filled with stories of ghosts
and gallant knights, flower-children and tower-ravens.
Among the pages a note has been hidden, written in red ink. It says, quite succinctly, Please read me and enjoy my stories. As I stand in the open churchyard of St Mary's
Tower I know that I've been blessed with the gift of laurels and laughter, as well
as folklore. The Path exists. The Rose is near. I can hear the way.
With the book in my possession I now steadily climb the great hill
towards what they used to call the People's Palace, renamed for Alexandra. A princess they say. Another park awaits upon the hill, and a small
garden near the crest hides yet another fountain of old stone. I tell myself that I'm certainly among heaven's
living waters today. For a few minutes I'm alone in this quiet
garden. It is silent and still. I'm intrigued by this other fountain, all weathered
and cracked. It’s a lion with four
faces, like the quartered sun of the old Celts.
Or the angels of Abraham. Again I
imagine the susurration pouring forth from each face of the Ari. I notice a little message on one of the benches. Sit a while and turn your face to the sun.
So, I do as the plaque suggests here at
this high place. I close my eyes, turning
inward as I try to find the spiritual sun once more.
Finally, as I approach Alexandra Palace at the peak of the hill,
I know my journey is coming to an end. It’s my
first time here. I find the grand edifice
waiting for me – the old BBC transmission mast still standing beside it, and I smile to myself. Eventually I reach the palace’s heart; its stunning rose window.
It echoes those stained-glass windows found in cathedrals all across the
world. Indeed, with its sprawling arches
the building has the manner of some vast industrial church upon the hill. A secular cathedral that once sent pulsed frequencies across the London skyline. There are
many people here today but the bench directly beneath the rose window is
mysteriously vacant. I happily sit,
thinking of signals and stone. I think of those lines from Keats at the start of my journey, and the
gift I was given. I hold the book of
London folk-tales in my hands as I peer at the evening city all laid out before
me. Directly above, the winged Angel of Plenty stands perched at the apex
of the palace. A cornucopia at her feet. She is the highest thing. Her left hand is raised in victory, a laurel
wreath clasped in her right. It's only then
that I realise this wonderful journey has moved me far more than I
expected. For a moment it’s almost like
hearing the angel speak. I turn and sure
enough there is a plaque on the bench at my back. I laugh with something approaching joy at the perfection of what
is revealed here, at the summit of my journey:
Raindrops on a daybreak
Token of cold midnight’s
No more radiant are than