Saturday, 7 August 2010


'Stretch out your Hand'

It is so sunny today, and with a glorious breeze which keeps the midgies away. The washing is hanging on the line and so far all is well with the world. That, of course could change before I have even finished writing this blog.

When I stand in the garden and see the damson tree so heavily laden, and the strawberries beginning to go red at last, I drink in the atmosphere and think there can be no better place to live in the world than Paradise Island.

I used to sing a sizable, and little known song by Vaughan Williams called 'Menelaus'. It is the last of his cycle 'The Four Last Songs', and obviously, given the title it is about the legendary King of the Mycenaeans, whose wife was the beautiful Helen of Troy. The words of the poem by his wife Ursula.

Vaughan Williams and his wife Ursula enjoyed reading aloud. One day, after they had been reading from T. E. Lawrence’s translation of Homer’s The Odyssey, Ursula felt compelled to write some verse. The resulting poem and song became the fourth song of the cycle “Menelaus.”

It is such a wandering song in terms of melody and rhythm but fits perfectly the sentiment of Menelaus traveling the known world trying to find Helen who was taken from him by Paris of Troy. The song is so bound up in ways of coming home, even at 18 I found the text and the repeating phrase 'You shall come home' very moving. Now I am older and live in this wonderful place I know even more, the value and pleasure of arriving home. There is a simple and elegant bridge joining the island to the mainland which you spot about 8 miles before reaching it, and when the weather is clear and I see it in the distance, I think of the climax line of the song when the music rises and swells like waves until Menelaus cries out in desperation 'Stretch out your Hand!', and I feel the bridge stretching out to the traveller, very weary from 700 miles of driving.

'You shall come home'

VW certainly knew how to catch the breath.

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