The Ancient Work of Giants

One of my favourite short pieces of literature is an Anglo-Saxon poem known as The Ruin, of which we have only fragmentary remains. The poet is gazing over the ruins of a Roman town - possibly Bath - some hundreds of years after the Romans left Britain Britain. And he is in awe.

By the time the poem was written much of the Roman cultural heritage had been abandoned and lost, including the ability to build in stone. The remains of the previous, technologically superior, civilisation astound the poet. He searches for words to describe his amazement and marvel and the phrase he comes up with is brosnað enta geweorc - the decaying work of giants.

There is too little awe in the world today. Too little opportunity to stop and consider the mighty, the ancient, the wondrous. Too little of what C.S. Lewis called the numinous. Too little time to reflect, to discover the right words. If the awesome impinges us at all, it is at the very margins of our consciousness, where for a moment or two - just occasionally - the corner of the veil is upturned and something magical and majestic and divine seeps through into our day to day, humdrum world. 

Where has all the wonder gone? Where the magic? Why do I - and all my friends in Western countries - find it so hard to ponder and approach the glory? Traffic, frantic business, noise - so much noise. White noise, the background radiation of our lives is like the fuzz on a TV screen tuned to a blank channel, when it should be intimations of wonder. Our capacity to be awestruck is drowned in a sea of static. Unseeing, unsensing, unfeeling creatures too often are we. 

And yet... the work of giants is there to be seen and sensed and felt. In fact, with biblical eyes opened, we see that the giants are not departed. Their work not some ancient legacy for sorrow, beautiful but crumbling but near, imminent and full of power. It is not the departure of giants that is the tragedy of the modern world, it is the inability to perceive them. 

Praying for anyone who reads this for the ability to take time today to reflect - really reflect. To stop, to pause, to pray. To See. May the corner of the veil be lifted.