Richard Church, born in London in 1893, is one of my favourite poets; for me, he captures the ways of an England long past, writing about ‘the deep hedgerows’ and the ‘showers of larksong’, he wrote of the English countryside, sunsets, waterfalls and ruined country cottages. There is something ethereal about his poetry, as in the poem Summer Night Music, which tells of shadows and ‘music descending over the dark heat’. There always seems to be something old and haunting in his poetry, a hidden mystical theme lurking behind the hawthorn.
Church certainly had a mystical side, and wrote poems entitled The Pagan and Solstices which hinted at his deeper interests. Indeed, in his autobiography Over the Bridge, he discusses his experiences of mysticism. In one particular account, after realising that time and space were deceivers, he wrote ‘my limbs and trunk were lighter than they seemed, and that I had only to reduce them by an act of will, perhaps by a mere change of physical mechanics, to command them off the ground, out of the tyranny of gravitation”. He then left the ground and glided ‘about the room’ some twelve or eighteen inches above the floor. He returned to the ground only to take off once more, and continued to levitate.
Church published many collections of his poetry, a three volume autobiography, and even wrote the foreword for Aldous Huxley’s Collected Poetry. He also published many novels, and was a highly successful author, being a respected journalist and reviewer. He was awarded a CBE in 1957 and died in 1972.
His poem Immortal may give an insight into his beliefs:
‘With dying fire and light,
With agony of birds
The day defers to the night,
And thought descends to words.
Immortal might become
The poet who could take
The rapture that is dumb,
And simple music make.’