…on why St Martin in the Fields is a forest

I divulge that this piece is wholly self-indulgent and fulfils utterly no function but to amuse the author!

The Feinstein Ensemble and London Bach Singers – with authentic period instruments; performing Bach’s exquisite masterwork, The Christmas Oratorio – were not the only persons thriving in an alternative moment and position on that winter’s evening in Trafalgar Square…

“The soul is no traveller; the wise man stays at home, and when his necessities, his duties, on any occasion call him from his house, or into foreign lands, he is at home still…”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance, 1841

Those versed in Emerson will be equally conversant in his estimation of travel when assumed flippantly or to assuage disgruntlement at home; for travel must request both aspiration and purpose: study, enlightenment, knowledge (I was vexed for a passing instant that I should cease holidaying on Santorini…eep!  But only for a moment!).  On this actual evening, I yearned not for the sun-kissed shores of my favourite Greek island; rather, my soul and self voyaged to both distinct epochs and loci; my physical person not having to accomplish more than a ride on the Tube; I journeyed to the past; to when St Martin’s was a manifestation of Nature.

Where?

“…the roots of all things are in man.  It is in the soul that architecture exists….the true poem is the poet’s mind; the true ship is the ship-builder.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, History, 1841

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St Martin in the Fields’ East Window represents the balance and stability man endeavours to find amidst a decaying universe

Scrutinise the “deep time” of history: the consequences are fundamentally facsimiles of those materialisations of the essences of the originators; therefore, admire, regard and esteem not the thing; but, the soul.

“Nor can any lover of nature enter the old piles of Oxford and the English cathedrals, without feeling that the forest overpowered the mind of the builder, and that his chisel, his saw, and plane still reproduced its ferns, its spikes of flowers, its locust, elm, oak, pine, fir, and spruce.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, History, 1841

This sentiment overwhelmingly engaged my intellect for the duration of the recital; and constrained and gave power to me to experience the revelation of the 18th century engineers, architects and craftsmen (though the history of St Martin’s predates this aspect); though I remained home (home being 21st century London), nevertheless.

The stone walls relegated before me to a grotto or significant boulders from which blossomed the magnificent building and its delicate features and artistry; the essence of an artist, from an age forgotten, cleaved such splendour; the pew upon which I perched correspondingly concentrated to ancient foliage.

It may be supposed that Nature was disciplined into these appearances; its wildness harnessed and influenced to yield a celebrated edifice with grand interiors and trappings; in fact, the core of the creators so connected with Nature, that a vision of splendid display revealed itself to them.

I needn’t have renounced my position or instant to have epiphanies imprint themselves upon my human experience and enlighten me thus, with Nature as my muse, as much to the futurists of yore.

What else are Nature’s offerings?

“The Astronomer discovers that geometry, a pure abstraction of the human mind, is the measure of planetary motion. The Chemist finds proportions and intelligible method throughout matter; and science is nothing but the finding of analogy, identity; in the most remote parts.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar, 1837

This astute citation I had at the ready to illustrate to Gethyn that, equally to art, science could not endure without Nature, and indeed survives to illuminate facets of the very thing which we do not comprehend – and in the case of St Martin in the Fields – wish to create.

A forest in central London is just sublime!

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