Howells – The House of the Mind

My selections so far have been pretty bouncy and Tiggerish, and as I have plenty more of those up my sleeve, I thought it would be nice to end the week with something calmer, with music and poetry that express the strength and vision of the human mind. The poem talks about how we should not think our minds are small because there is space for the whole infinity of God and his creation to dwell there, and even if you don’t believe in God, it beautifully expresses the power of our imaginations, which is something I think I’ll be finding helpful to draw on while normal life has become so constricted. This is quintessential Howells, and his setting brings out the quiet ecstasy of the poem and glows with an inner strength that I find very comforting.

As earth’s pageant passes by,
Let reflection turn thine eye
Inward, and observe thy breast;
There alone dwells solid rest.

That’s a close immurèd tower
Which can mock all hostile power:
To thyself a tenant be,
And inhabit safe and free.

Say not that this house is small,
Girt up in a narrow wall;
In a cleanly sober mind
Heaven itself full room doth find.

Th’ infinite Creator can
Dwell in it, and may not man?
Here content make thy abode
With thyself and with thy God.

(Joseph Beaumont (1616–1699)

If you’re wondering about the picture I choose to go with this post, it’s St Catherine’s Chapel in Dorset and it’s a photo that I came across when choosing the publicity image for the concert when we sang this piece. We didn’t use this picture in the end, but it’s always been closely linked in my mind with this piece.