Castle on the Hill

My copy is a 1st edition printed in 1942, by Duckworth during the second world war, a time when paper like everything else was in short supply. Although a hard back, it has not stood the tests of time well, warping and stained along its outer leaves. The cover is slightly torn and missing a piece from the back, a “bombed” book reflecting the subject matter.

As a tale it is stark, verging in places in outright propaganda, one of the reasons it was probably published at all, as the paper shortage caused by the war was by this time acute. The metaphor is obvious, England, besieged, frightened, as embattled as the castle.

The themes of the story are huge; those of grief, loss, anger, pride, patriotism, courage. But under pinning them all is the perpetual theme of all of Elizabeth’s books, her central core, that good homes, secure homes, house families.

Elizabeth had thought and prayed a great deal about the war. She was dedicated in her research and depth of reading. She understood the political and economic situations better than most people, certainly most people in her strata of society. She empathised with the plight of refugees, the disposed, a personification of which are found in the characters of Miss Brown and Mr Isaacson.

You can still visit the castle, Berry Pomeroy in Devon, high on its crag in the woods. It is reputedly one of the most haunted places in England. Elizabeth loved it so much she moved to write one of her rare poems about the place after visiting it often.

The Castle

Hid deep in the heart of the woods, haunted and old,
The shell of a Castle stills stands, a story told,
Built high on a rock in the woods, frozen and cold.

Deep are the night-dark shadows under the wall,
Breathlessly whispering downwards the snowflakes fall,
Shrouding the desolate towers in a stainless pall.

Fearful within me my own heart, failing, has died,
I too in the woods am frozen, bereaved, sore tried.
Alone here…… There in the shadows, who was it sighed?

There, in the bastioned walls where the gateway stands,
Are there shadows within its shadows, weaving the strands
Back through the loom of past sorrow with pain worn hands?

Shadows weeping a world grown cold and stark with pain,
Mourning once more the lights put out, put out again,
The loveliness broken and lost, the young men slain.

Has sorrow alone lived here for a hundred years?
Is only hatred immortsl, men’s craven fears?
Only the weeping of women, their uesless tears?

Not winter only reigns here in this haunted place,
As the cold clouds part, defeated, the sunbeams lace
The dark trees with their diamond light, touch the worn face

Of the frozen stone with colour, with azure fire
Of spring-times long past,yet alive, the hot desire
Of summers never forgotten, hopes that aspire

For ever, courage unbeaten, valour aflame,
The unshaken victory of the men who name
Holy things to their strength…….Nor fear, nor hate nor shame

Is theirs…. I see the flashing of arms on the wall,
Hear the deep roar of the conflict, the thrilling call,
Of the silver trumpet sounding high on the tall

Towers of God’s immortal fortress, that he made
Against the evil out of the love of men laid
At his feet, their sweat, their blood to the last drop paid.

For this is the rock that for all time man defends,
The rock of his soul against which all evil spends
Its fury in vain in the warfare that never ends.

And these the embattled walls that the heroes trod,
Swift winged with flame, their feet with the gospel shod,
For this is the house of all life, the house of God.

Lift up, lift up ypur constant hearts, the trumpet cries,
Lift them up to the shining walls, the sun drenched skies,
For beyond the night for ever the sun will rise.

Elizabeth Goudge

 

 

Comments

    • Elizabeth was very shy of her poetry, she considered it a higher form of literary art. Many of her best friends were poets,such as Ruth Pitter, James Kirkup and Anne Lewis-Smith, who was also her neighbour in Peppards Common.

  1. Hi my name is Rev Terry Low,
    I was delighted to discover that there is a group remembering Elizabeth Gouge. So it may be of interest to you that Elizabeth was my Godmother 82 years ago. My Mother Meggie Low was from an Irish Presbyterian faith so she and Elizabeth hit it off when they both lived in Marldon and Elizabeth in Westerland. As my Godmother Elizabeth kept an eye on me, hence in June 1942 she presented me with THE CHILDREN’S BIBLE by Mrs C.D. Francis, Elizabeth had written inside “Terence read this book every day and study it so that you may have a good knowledge of the scriptures. One day you will understand the value of getting to know God’s word in the scriptures.” Also when I was considering Marriage My Fiance and I were invited to call on Elizabeth, she wanted to make sure I was Marrying a Christian girl and that she was suitable. Elizabeth Approved.
    Elizabeth was a wise, sometimes a quiet lady, but very profound, I think she knew that someday I would be ordained, although as it turned out when i was 40.
    I will always be grateful to Elizabeth for keeping an eye on me and encouraging me to study the scriptures, and yes I still refer to that early book, which is very advanced for a young child, but obviously had quite an effect on me from an early age.
    I hope you find this of some interest, With every Blessing, Terry

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