Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Country Chrism - with the key to Fairyland, 1913

The lead article in The Vineyard in March 1913 was a poem by Maude Egerton King called 'The Country Chrism'.  Underneath the title it is written "P. G. H.: Christened at the Country Church, 26 Jan. 26, 1913".  The poem describes the christening of Philip, 'P.G.H.' at the Country Church, Kings Road, Haslemere.  It was clearly not a standard church christening.  The actions and their meanings convey some fascinating insights into the life and thoughts of the Peasant Arts movement in Haslemere.

The wayside water referred to is perhaps the stream that now flows between the railway line and the even numbered houses on Kings Road.  Or maybe it is another spring or stream that ran above ground, following on from the old Watermill that used to be situated on the site of the Country Church, now St George's Flats, Kings Road.

The Christening by Ludwig Richter
illustration from The Vineyard, March 1913

"Up from the Heart of all living things
The wayside water it wells and sings.

Though small and hidden its humble cup
From depths eternal it rises up;

From life eternal, tho' cupped so small,
Wells the sweet water, most mystical.

  *       *      *

Shining and singing the day comes down
To jewel the quiet Earth's winter gown.

The berries burn red and the robins sing,
And the snowdrop belfries are all a-ring-

(Delicate snowdrop, so pure and merry,
And sturdy, rubicund holly berry!)

Into the singing day they bring
A beautiful child to the wayside spring.

Were he a bird at its mossy lip,
His singing were sweeter for just one sip;

Or a poor soul, thirsty, and soiled of mien,
The water would feed him and wash him clean.

But dear little Philip is bright and new
As lambs and daises and silver dew;

His pretty frock is of white, white silk,
No thirst has he for he drinks good milk.

'Mid sunlit snowdrops and berried moss
They sprinkle his heart with a shining cross;

They write on his wondering brow the sign
Of Heaven sonship and right divine;

Then hold him close to the moss so sweet
To feel the heart of the Mother beat.

They have touched his lips and his wide bright eyes,
To keep them gentle and brave and wise;

And his feet, in hope of a strong man's running,
His hands, for the joy of the craftsman's cunning;

And they've left in the palm of his small right hand
The hidden key to his fairyland

Dear little Philip is full well sped
With the Country Chrism on heart and head!

The twofold wisdom shall his be now,
Of the sacred Cross, of the sacred Plough,
With the Country Chrism on heart and brow!

  *        *         *
The beautiful Earth will be home to you
And church and workshop and playground too.

And faith, hand-labour, and love and praise
Will win men out of the mortal maze
To walk in the simple and vital ways.

From highway and hedge you will bring them in, -
The rich and poor brothers, so gross, so thin
On money, and wind, and the husks of sin, -

From hedge and highway bring many a brother
Back to the heart of the patient Mother,

Nor rest till his whole desire be bent
On breaking the bread of her sacrament;

To serve her with love and all faithful labour,
And holy days, dance to her pipe and tabour;

To see the Lord in her burning bushes
And sing His praise with her larks and thrushes;

And bless Him daily for power and breath
And then for the freedom of well-earned death!

     *       *       *

Up from the Heart of all living things
The wonderful water it springs and sings;

Though small and hidden its earthy cup,
From depths eternal it rushes up,

From life eternal, though cupped so small,
The deep sweet water, the mystical!"

illustration to 'The Country Chrism'
The Vineyard, March 1913

The Vineyard, March 1913

The Country Chrism, Maude Egerton King
The Vineyard, March 1913


  1. How interesting. I wonder who PGH was?

    There are several Ludwig Richter engravings on the Blount magic lantern slides. They often have religious or moralistic themes. I wonder if they were used in the Country Church services?

  2. Just what I was going to ask, DW! What a lovely Christening poem, full of hope and tied so strongly to the natural world, and the skills which can be learned and put to good use. Not a bad creed to have.

  3. Thanks for your comments. It describes a magical christening, so unique in Haslemere I think! I'm intrigued as to who "Philip G H". It could perhaps be a Philip George Hine, named after 'Henry George Hine', Maude Egerton King's father. However there is no Philip George Hine in their family tree, that's been documented anyway.

    Perhaps they did use Ludwig Richter engravings in the church services, it would be great to see those lanterns again sometime.


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