Songs on a Sunday Afternoon

On Sunday afternoon I attended a sung evensong at Westminster Abbey.  Not only was it a chance to see the Abbey without throngs of tourists, it

was a chance to sit quietly and just absorb the grandeur of that building, to look carefully at the site where Elizabeth had been crowned and where she had been entombed.  My seat was near the Poet’s Corner. I had set a scene there, the funeral of Edmund Spenser, who was buried next to Chaucer.  Not far away was the tombstone of Old Thomas Parr, who also has a scene in the book.  He was reputedly 152 years old when he died, and had lived through the reigns of 10 monarchs, from Edward IV to Charles I.  He died in 1635.  So he was already over 100 during Elizabeth’s reign.  He became famous because at the age of 100 he had an affair and an illegitimate child, and had to do public penance.  In my scene, he tells Elizabeth he’s thinking of marrying again and asks if she’ll send him a wedding gift.  Supposedly he remarried at the age of 122, three years after Elizabeth’s death.  So he didn’t get his gift from her.

During this particular service, the choristers in training got their promotion into full membership. Their voices were exquisite, and their faces innocent, but I couldn’t help remembering that the boys in “Lord of the Flies” were choristers of about that age.  How brilliant of William Golding to have chosen such a group to represent original sin and how it’s always lurking just beneath the snowy choir robes.