Monday 10 May 2021

The Hill of Plenty

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 flower,

Token of cold midnight’s grace,

No more radiant are than these

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