"Coming from Evening Church" (1830)
Returning from Church
That country spire -- Samuel Palmer knew
What world they entered, who,
Kneeling in English village pew,
Were near those angels whose golden effigies looked down
From Gothic vault or hammer-beam.
Grave sweet ancestral faces
Beheld, Sunday by Sunday, a holy place
Few find, who, pausing now
In empty churches, cannot guess
At those deep simple states of grace.
Kathleen Raine, The Oracle in the Heart (1980).
The poem brings to mind Philip Larkin's "Church Going" and J. L. Carr's A Month in the Country, both of which have a similar elegiac feeling.
Robin Tanner, "Harvest Festival" (1930)
The following poem by Derek Mahon goes well, I think, with Raine's poem.
The chair squeaks in a high wind,
Rain falls from its branches;
The kettle yearns for the mountain,
The soap for the sea.
In a tiny stone church
On a desolate headland
A lost tribe is singing 'Abide With Me'.
Derek Mahon, Selected Poems (Viking/The Gallery Press 1991).
Nowadays, the word "nostalgia" has acquired a vaguely pejorative sense. As has the word "sentimental," with which it is often paired. At least that's my perception. But perhaps I'm being defensive, since I do not find anything inherently wrong with nostalgia or sentimentality, as long as we realize that the past was not "better" in all respects than the world in which we presently live. I'm pleased that we now have electricity and plumbing. Beyond that . . .
Of course, there are those who choose to believe that we have "advanced" beyond those lost times and that human history is an unbroken narrative of "progress," as measured in scientific and political terms. How quaint and beguiling a notion.
"Men have judged that a king can make rain; we say this contradicts all experience. Today they judge that aeroplanes and the radio etc. are means for the closer contact of peoples and the spread of culture."
Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty, Paragraph 132 (translated by Denis Paul and G. E. M. Anscombe) (Basil Blackwell 1969).
Samuel Palmer, "A Hilly Scene" (c. 1826)
New world, I see you dazzle,
Like the sun on a door-knocker
In a straight street inhabited
By people I do not know.
C. H. Sisson, Exactions (Carcanet 1980).
Robin Tanner, "Christmas" (1929)