It’s been a long time since I’ve read any of Robertson Davies but yesterday on CBC Radio’s Studio Sparks, Eric Frieson prefaced a performance of Palestrina’s great motet Sicut Cervus with a quote from Davies’ novel Fifth Business:
If he hoped to make an atheist of me, this was where he went wrong; I knew a metaphor when I heard one, and I like metaphor better than reason. I have known many atheists since Sam, and they all fall down on metaphor.
I consider myself lucky that during my period of strong faith I attended a parish church (St Thomas Anglican – Toronto) where music – both sung and in the spoken language of the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer – was an integral part of worship. Not that the parish community did not listen to reason: reason played a part in the Senior’s Home we built to celebrate our centenary, in the day care centre we operated in the church hall, in the neighborhood and University outreach programmes. It even played a part in the Parish support of Caesar Chavez and the California grape boycott – but frankly being Anglo-Catholics who really bothered with grapes unless they were fermented? And it may have played a part in a few of the sermons that were preached. But mass, evensong, matins – all the feast, fast and ferial celebrations of the church year – those were pure metaphor.
I fell away from the church many years ago and perhaps it is approaching old age but these days I think I miss the reason but I know I miss the metaphor.
As a sidebar, God’ Secretaries, The Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicholson is an intriguing look at the period, the politics and what influenced this brilliant piece of English literature.