Wednesday, September 15, 2010

And is there honey still for tea?

The question posted yesterday was not another of those Natural Navigator look-at-the-shadows or moss riddle;  rather it was a geographic-temporal-poetry puzzle.

For if you punt upriver on the Cam from Cambridge you get to the meadows of Grantchester, a hamlet immortalised in Rupert Brooke's poem "The Old Vicarage at Grantchester" which ends:

Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?

So the correct answer as Chris pointed out was 2:50, otherwise known as ten to three.

There is something very quintessentially English about the meadows, they seem unchanged through the centuries. You could imagine the medieval peasants joking as they worked the fields for a feast for King Henry VI to celebrate the founding of Kings College in 1441.

You can picture the young Darwin searching by the river bank, his eyes gleaming with excitement as he finds a rare beetle, completely oblivious to a future filled with great discoveries and voyages.

They would have shared these pastures with a fighter ace from the Battle of Britain, spending a day's leave with his sweet-heart, lying on his back to inspect the sky with the eye of an expert.

And us, who went to college here and meet once a year to practice our punting skills on the river "the water sweet and cool".

I hope like the true England of Aslan's land it remains like that for ever:

And laughs the immortal river still
Under the mill, under the mill?
Say, is there Beauty yet to find?
And Certainty? and Quiet kind?
Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies, and truths, and pain? . . . oh! yet
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?


Baydog said...

Lovely poem. I guess I'm more of a hickory-dickory-dock kind of guy.

ChrisP said...

Natural navigation wouldn't have helped with that one because the church clock was stopped. The implication was that England was delightfully shambolic, in contrast to efficient, bureaucratic Germany.
Of course, the reverse was the case, which is why we won.

JP said...

Interesting - I see the poem was written in Germany a few years before WW1.

Britain's lack of preparation was a big theme in newspapers and novels of the time e.g. Riddle of the Sands etc.

P.G.Wodehouse took the micky of this genre in his "The Swoop!" in which England is invaded by 9 armies at once including the Swiss Navy and no one notices, it being the cricket season and London empty as "no one was in town". Total hoot!

Preparation was a lot better for round II in '39.

O Docker said...

Curious that a literary movement was needed to encourage a reluctant military.

How times have changed.

JP said...

I think "The Swoop!" should be re-printed whenever the press gets a bit too jingoistic.

It's also very funny ;)