Some years ago we were given a small rose bush at Christmas by my daughter, Kate’s in-laws. They lived, then, in Lichfield and told us the story of the rose’s origin. When Lichfield cathedral was undergoing extensive renovations, excavators discovered a beautiful small stone statue of an angel, part of the original building. It became known as the Lichfield angel and an enterprising rose grower gave its name to a new rose. Our Lichfield angel has grown year by year into a large, healthy bush with blossoms which begin as a delicate pink, changing to cream and ultimately white. The blooms are so large that on occasion strong winds and rain beat the stems down, despite efforts to bind them back. It continues to give great pleasure and I love its name.

I was reminded of this by Malcolm Guite, who describes his own roses, chosen as much for their names as for their scent and beauty. The names he mentions are unknown to me, but I do recall the delight at discovering a rose called Rambling Rector!

In ‘Poet’s Corner’ Malcolm Guite goes on to quote one of my favourite poets, T.S.Eliot and the Four Quartets which I remember studying. He leads us:

Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose garden.

Later the roses in ‘Burnt Norton’ keep suggesting a moment when time touches eternity, a moment that keeps beckoning, ‘the still point of the turning world,’ both in and out of time, a sudden flowering of consciousness, as graceful as the rose itself:

To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose garden
Be remembered.

Finally the poem offers a vision of hope:

And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
when the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

I am reminded that poetry does not need to be understood in order to be appreciated and enjoyed. Like my Lichfield angel rose it has a beauty which transcends understanding. Just as our faith and trust in God leads us into a mystery which similarly transcends understanding, until we reach that place: Where we shall know and be known.

[Thelma Shacklady]